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10+ Contemporary Blues Artists Who Are Keeping the Blues Alive

I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.

The blues will never die. Almost without fail, great musicians seem to take to the genre early in life. For some, acclaim comes easily, others spend a lifetime making music before, suddenly, coming into the spotlight. The diversity of this list illustrates how many different styles are encompassed within the blues genre. These are only a few contemporary blues artists you may not have heard. Make sure to do more research on your own. There are so many great artists to discover!

10 Great Modern Blues Artists

The numbers are not a ranking system, they are in no particular order.

  1. Kenny Wayne Shepherd
  2. Joe Bonamassa
  3. Warren Haynes
  4. Janiva Magness
  5. Tab Benoit
  6. Larkin Poe
  7. Robert Cray
  8. Bettye LaVette
  9. Joe Louis Walker
  10. Susan Tedeschi

This article will explore the diverse landscape of modern blues music. Like all musical genres, the blues has evolved and absorbed elements from other musical traditions. These great artists pay homage to the tradition of blues, while also pushing forward into new territories. For more info on each artist, read the paragraphs below.

1. Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana on June 12th 1977, Kenny Wayne Shepherd's name has almost become synonymous with "young blues guitarist." He is a self-taught guitarist and gifted songwriter. His father was a radio personality and concert promoter. Inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom he met through his father, Shepherd has been playing guitar since childhood.

Shepherd had unusual commercial success at an early age. He was signed to a multiple record contract by Giant Records and released his first album, Ledbetter Heights, when he was just 18. He has had seven singles in the Billboard top 10, won two Billboard Music Awards, and has been nominated for five Grammys.

Best Kenny Wayne Shepherd Album, How I Go

Released: August 2, 2011

Label: Roadrunner

Formats: CD, DI, LP

Kenny Wayne Shepherd's brand of blues-rock comes down a lot closer to the rock and roll side. If you want your blues loud and powerful, his album, How I Go, is the album for you. How I Go is dark and classical, despite sharp production. The disc cries and wails with pure intensity. Shepherd is on point. He's every bit as good as he was back in ’99.

What Makes How I Go Such a Great Album?

  • Shepherd works to expand the definition of blues
  • His guitar work is diverse
  • The album doesn't suffer from the samey-ness that so many other albums succumb to

2. Joe Bonamassa

Born in New Hartford, New York, on May 8th 1977. Bonamassa comes from a musical family. Making his career in music, Bonamassa followed the family tradition dating back to his great-grandfather.

The blues-rock guitarist and singer says he has always been drawn more to British and Irish blues such as Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, and Rory Gallagher than to traditional American blues. It shows in his music. His style is hard-driving electric blues and hard-rock.

Many people may be familiar with Bonamassa's work with Black Country Communion, a hard-rock band made up of Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, Derek Sherinian, and Jason Bonham.

Best Joe Bonamassa Album, Live At Radio City Music Hall

Released: October 2, 2015

Label: J&R Adventures

Formats: CD, 2LP, DL

Bonamassa's album, Live At Radio City Music Hall, was released October 2, 2015. As the title implies, it was recorded at the Radio City Music Hall in January of 2015. The set spans over 75 minutes and includes two newly recorded songs and nine unreleased live tracks. The set is presented in a beautifully designed package that will satisfy even the most critical of fans.

What Makes Live At Radio City Music Hall Such a Great Album?

  • At 75 minutes long, you get your money's worth
  • It's exciting to hear unreleased tracks in their fresh stages
  • You can feel Bonamassa's passion throughout every minute of the album

3. Warren Haynes

Born April 6, 1960 in Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Haynes began playing guitar at the age of 12. He cites Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Johnny Winter as musical role models.

Warren Haynes is a guitar player, singer and songwriter. He is associated with southern rock, blues-rock, soul and blues. He gained notoriety when he played guitar with The Allman Brothers Band. He is also the founder of the jam band Gov't Mule.

In his younger days he played guitar for David Allan Coe and The Dickey Betts Band.

He is also associated with surviving members of the Grateful Dead. He tours with Phil Lesh and Friends and The Dead.

He is co-founder and manager of Evil Teen Records. A New York City based record label begun in 1996.

Best Warren Haynes Album, Man In Motion

Released: May 10, 2011

Label: Concord Music Group

Formats: Mp3, Audio CD, Vinyl

Man in Motion is the second studio album by Warren Haynes. Before Warren Haynes joined the Allman Brother's Band he was playing and writing country-soul music. Man in Motion is a throwback to that time, with some Memphis in the mix, but with plenty of kick ass guitar.

What Makes Man In Motion Such a Great Album?

  • wonderful guitar work & impressive vocals
  • almost exclusively Hayne's own material
  • smoky and bluesy, different from Gvm't Mule

4. Janiva Magness

If anyone has the right to sing the blues it's Janiva Magness. The blues and soul singer/songwriter was born in Detroit Michigan on January 30th, 1957. As a child she lost both of her parents to suicide and then went into foster care. By the time she was 16 she was an emancipated minor and a pregnant teen who later gave her child up for adoption.

Magness found her salvation when the music of Otis Rush drew her to the blues. The music spoke to her in a way nothing else had and, while singing the blues served to help heal her troubled soul, she found that singing the blues also provided a means to make a living. Known for her smoky, sultry voice, Magness has received a total of seventeen Blues Music Award nominations. Her most recent nomination was for 2012's Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year.

Best Janiva Magness Album, Stronger For It

Released: March 13, 2012

Label: Alligator Records

Formats: CD, 2LP, DL

Janiva Magness wears her heart on her sleeve on her soulful album, Stronger for It. Her rich, smoldering vocals are deeply heartfelt and emotional. Stronger For It is Janiva's declaration of independence. She had recently come through an intensely difficult period in her life. Here Magness has found power in her music. She lays her soul bare, singing of loss and recovery, pain and redemption.

When I first saw the video below, I just could not stop playing it.

What Makes Stronger For It Such a Great Album?

  • It's Produced by Dave Darling (Brian Setzer, Meredith Brooks, Dan Hicks, John Waite)
  • Recording Stronger For It was as cathartic for Magness as listening to it will be for her fans
  • Her voice is full of soul and wisdom

5. Tab Benoit

This accomplished guitarist, singer, and songwriter was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 17th, 1967. Delta blues with a Cajun-influence is at the heart of Tab Benoit's style. Devoted to his swampy blues, he has no interest in pursuing a more hard-rock style for the sake of popularity.

Preserving the swamps of Louisiana is a cause close to his heart. Benoit founded the organization Voice of the Wetlands to promote awareness of the receding of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

Best Tab Benoit Album, The Best of Tab Benoit

Released: April 3, 2012

Label: Vanguard Records

Formats: CD, 2LP, DL

Tab Benoit is joined by many of his talented friends, including Billie Joe Shaver, Waylon Thibodeaux and Jimmy Hall, on The Best of Tab Benoit, an album of classic, primal Delta Blues. Benoit has an easygoing, low-key personality, but that doesn't mean this Louisiana boy can't boogie. His brand of Louisiana swamp blues is all his own, and for some 20 years now he has paved the way for those who wish to expand the definition of blues.

What Makes The Best of Tab Benoit Such a Great Album?

  • Diverse sound
  • Powerful lyrics
  • It's too hard to choose just one of his albums, so why not hear a little bit of each?

6. Larkin Poe

As a fan of the blues, I don't know how I have missed these incredible young women for so long. I just recently heard them for the first time, and they blew me away.

Larkin Poe is their band name. The band is lead by sisters Rebecca Lovell (born January 30, 1991) and Megan Lovell (born May 12, 1989) from Atlanta, Georgia.

Rebecca is amazing on lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and piano. Megan is fantastic on back up vocals and lap-steel. Their voices blend together as if they are one.

Best Larkin Poe Album, Venom & Faith

Released: November 9, 2018

Label: Tricki-Woo Records

Formats: Digital Download, CD and Vinyl

This isn’t your basic blues rock. It’s like nothing else out there. While the album is firmly rooted in the swampy Delta mud, these young women bring a fresh youthful energy that is just what the blues needs.

What Makes Venom & Faith Such a Great Album?

  • Romping, stomping beats
  • Gritty southern blues
  • Edgy and evocative

7. Robert Cray

Robert Cray was born on August 1st, 1953 in Columbus, Georgia. He was an Army brat; his family moved all over the country before finally settling in Tacoma, Washington in 1968.

When Albert Collins played at his high-school graduation, Cray became fascinated by soul music and blues. Cray spent some time playing backup for Collins, but soon went out on his own. After some local success, he was signed with Mercury Records. He made several albums with that label and began to gain wider appeal.

He was soon touring and opening for major stars like Eric Clapton. He also played with the legendary John Lee Hooker on his album Boom Boom. During his career, Robert Cray has won three Grammy awards and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.

Best Robert Cray Album, 4 Nights of 40 Years Live

Released: 2015

Label: Revolver Recordings

Formats: Digital Download and CD

Robert Cray has never been one to rest on his laurels. He's always putting out new material, yet his musical integrity remains the same. 4 Nights of 40 Years Live celebrates his many years of playing the Blues. The live album was released August 28, 2015. This album celebrates 40 years of his career. It's inspiring to see a musician going strong after so many years.

What Makes 4 Nights of 40 Years Live Such a Great Album?

  • Spans 40 years of his career
  • You get to hear how each song changes when it's played live
  • You get to hear a master doing what he does best

8. Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette was born Betty Haskins on January 29th, 1946. She was born in Muskegon, Michigan and grew up in Detroit. This talented singer and songwriter has an eclectic style ranging from soul and blues to rock, gospel, and country.

Interested in music from childhood, she made her first record when she was only sixteen. Her single, "My Man - He's a Lovin' Man," became a Top Ten R&B hit. This led to a tour with musicians who included Ben E. King and Otis Redding. But fame can be fleeting in the music industry, and her success was intermittent until LaVette's 2005 album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise brought her back into the spotlight only 45 years after that first hit single.

Best Bettye LaVette Album, Worthy

Released: January 27, 2015

Label: Red Cherry

Formats: Digital Download and CD

After more than 50 years in the music business, Bettye LaVette released her latest album, Worthy, on January 27, 2015. The album features 11 songs composed by artists including Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney. Colin McGuire, over at PopMatters, described why she loved the album saying, "...Bettye LaVette knows her strengths. She knows what makes that voice of hers so timeless, and she knows how to make songs sound like they are her own, even if she had no part in writing them. If these 11 tracks were designed to remind the world of a criminally forgotten musical treasure, they succeeded and then some."

The song on the video below is not on Worthy, but I just loved it so much I had to include it here. I hope you enjoy it too.

What Makes Worthy Such a Great Album?

  • Universally loved by musicians and critics alike
  • Her voice is riveting throughout the album
  • Her production team did an incredible job on this album

9. Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker is best known for his electric blues guitar, but he is also a singer, songwriter, and producer. Walker was born in San Francisco, California on Christmas Day in 1949. He has been playing guitar since the age of 8, and by the time he was a teen-ager he was a regular on the Bay Area music scene.

He played with many famous blues artists and was good friends and roommates with famed blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield (until Bloomfield died from an apparent heroin overdose in 1981). His friend's death prompted Walker to go back to school to earn degrees in Music and English, but he eventually returned to his first love, the blues.

Best Joe Louis Walker Album, Everybody Wants A Piece

Released: October 9, 2015

Label: Provogue

Formats: Digital Download and CD

Joe Louis Walker's brand new album, "Everybody Wants A Piece," was released on October 9, 2015. Walker is known around the world as one of the genre’s top musical trailblazers—a mesmerizing guitarist and soulful vocalist. He was inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame in 2013. He was also asked to introduce B.B. King into the Hall of Fame. That's an incredible honor!

What Makes "Everybody Wants A Piece" Such a Great Album?

  • Soul-testifying vocals
  • Heart-wrenching lyrics
  • Some of the most astonishing guitar playing that you'll ever hear

10. Susan Tedeschi

Susan Tedeschi has an earthy singing voice, which has been compared to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt. Her guitar playing has been influenced by dynamic artists like Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Born on November 9th, 1970, in Boston, Massachusetts. Susan Tedeschi sang from an early age, even performing in a Broadway musical at the age of 6. By the time she was 13 Tedeschi was singing in bands and she formed her first band at 18. She started the Susan Tedeschi Band in 1994.

The Susan Tedeschi Band gained recognition by opening for acts like B.B. King, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan, and The Allman Brothers. They opened for The Rolling Stones in 2003, gaining national exposure.

Married to Derek Trucks, slide guitarist from the Allman Brothers Band, since 2001, Tedeschi and Trucks merged their bands and toured under the name Soul Stew Revival. Now they have both forgone their solo groups and formed a new band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Best Tedeschi Trucks Band Album, Everybody's Talkin'

Released: May 22, 2012

Label: Sony Masterworks, Sony Music Entertainment

Formats: Digital Download and CD

Susan Tedeschi's vocals are in fine form on Everybody's Talkin.' Besides that, anybody who thinks a girl can't play blues guitar has not heard her yet. Tedeschi's voice compliments her husband, Derek Trucks' intense slide guitar. With an eclectic array of cover songs, they bring their own approach to each song, making it their own.

The title song was a bit controversial. Many people think it's too changed from the original song. However, that's part of the reason I love it. It's a great song made new again. This band transitions seamlessly between R&B, blues, rock, gospel, and jazz.

What Makes Everybody's Talkin' Such a Great Album?

  • Its balance of sonic precision and stage-born kinetics is perfect.
  • The band transitions seamlessly between R&B, blues, rock, gospel, and jazz.
  • This album is what every live album should be: an exciting reflection of a band's best work!

More Great Contemporary Blues Artists

If you didn't see your favorite artist here check out my other lists of blues artists, complete with videos. "10 Living Blues Artists You Might Not Know" and "10 Great 21st Century Women of the Blues"

More Great Contemporary Blues Artists

ArtistSuggested Listening

Ansley Lister

"Need Her So Bad"

Keb' Mo'

"Shave Yo' Legs"

Coco Montoya

"Women Have a Way With a Fool"

Jimmy Thackery

"Solid Ice"

Kenny Neal

"Blues Fallin' Down Like Rain"

Ben Harper

"Brown Eyes Blue"

Shemekia Copeland

"Married to the Blues"

Anders Osborne

"Mind of a Junkie"

Tommy Castro

"Lucky in Love"

Marcia Ball

"The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man"

Chris Cain

"Ain't Nobody's Business"

Ana Popovic

"Slow Dance"

Gary Clark Jr

"Come Together"

Larry McCray

"Southern Man"

Taj Majal

"Catfish Blues"

Jonny Lang

"A Quitter Never Wins"

Beth Hart

"Saved"

Danielle Nicole

"Take it All"

Joanne Shaw Taylor

"Time Has Come"

Ruthie Foster

"Richland Woman Blues"

Shemekia Copeland

"Ghetto Child"

Sue Foley

"Ice Queen"

Michael Burks

"Iron Man

Samantha Fish

"Kill or Be Kind"

© 2014 Sherry Hewins

Comments

Iwan Suryawan on September 03, 2020:

Jonny Lang Jonny Lang

Kevin Deon on July 20, 2020:

great article

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 15, 2019:

Thanks for the recommendation

Christopher Nowak on December 15, 2019:

If anyone wants to come to THE BLUES FEST in Kitchener, Ontario in early August of each year, I suggest that you check out STEVE STRONGMAN and SHAWN KELLERMAN.

They are not well known but there talent is just as good as all the other greats!!

Christopher Nowak on October 03, 2019:

John Mayer??!!

Dave on September 21, 2019:

Will be checking out a couple people here I have never heard of.

A few people to add to your list

Gary Clark Jr

Marcus King band

Samantha Fish

Ally Venable band

Kingfish

Koch Marshall trio

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on May 12, 2019:

Who's gimmicky?

Darin777 on May 11, 2019:

Of course many have opinions. As do i. Lets leave out those gimmicky people and stick with true artists. Warren Haynes is the absolute king and has been for years. Tedeschi Trucks winning grammys and probably the best live show youll witness. Top two there no doubt. And they arent copycats, nor have all the sparklys and smoke. They are simply awesome. Govt Mule is more rock but in our day as much blues as any. So when focused on the ART, and not the gimmicks, theres only a few in the list that are legit. But many, many more that arent able to make themselves pretty enough for the audience today.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 23, 2019:

I agree that Ana Popovic is great. This is only the first of three lists of blues artists that I have made, and none of them are even attempting to include every great blues artist. Anna is on my latest article, 10 Great 21st Century Women of the Blues https://spinditty.com/genres/Ten-21st-Century-Wome...

Doug Potoksky on April 22, 2019:

In the name of the Blues. How can you not list Ana Popovic? She like always on the road. I read nothing but great reviews! I have seen her many times. Every show great. Even Ronnie Earl sometimes sits in with her. Ask Ronnie what he thinks of her! I used to play now a photographer. Have seen most of the greats. Sorry! You are wrong about Ana.And she paid a lot of dues to play like she does.

Curtis jarrell on March 18, 2019:

Taj Majal?

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 20, 2018:

OK JKB. Where is your list?

JKB on November 20, 2018:

Larry McCray open and shut. Terribly predictable list.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on June 02, 2018:

Steve Clancy, These are in no particular order, and Chris Cain is wonderful and a contemporary blues artist. Perhaps I need to make a third list. Of course there will always be some deserving person left off, but that's a good thing. It goes to show that there are still plently of great blues artists to be discovered and loved.

Steve Clancy on May 31, 2018:

Chis Cain should be at the top of the list. He is one of in fact the all time greats. Of you don't know he is check him out on youtube. An absolute monster player.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on March 25, 2018:

See my second article https://spinditty.com/genres/Great-Living-Blues-Ar...

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 15, 2017:

I agree with you Robert C. Bruce. I love this cover!

Robert C. Bruce on December 14, 2017:

"Talkin`" `bout a COVER. OMG! Has this song ever sounded better? That`s rhetorical, of course.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 30, 2017:

If you haven't seen this article yet, you might check it out. Some of those you mentioned are there. https://spinditty.com/genres/Ten-Best-Blues-Albums

RonTon on November 30, 2017:

Ana Popovic, Popa Chubby, Mike Zito, Robben Ford, Government Mule, Sonny Landreth, and Samantha Fish to name just a few more!

Wes C on July 26, 2017:

Crow Black Chicken & Big Boy Bloater :)

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on June 19, 2017:

Eric Hideman - Well, I do love him, but my list is certainly not all-inclusive. He was kind of in a dormant period when I wrote this article in 2014.

My husband and went to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in 2000, and the schedule of our trip was built around seeing Jonny Lang at the Buffalo Chip campground. It was everything we expected and more!

https://hubpages.com/autos/What-to-Take-on-Your-60...

Eric Heideman on June 19, 2017:

What about Jonny Lang??????????

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on June 08, 2017:

Marcus Ellis, Thanks for the tip, I surely will.

Marcus Ellis on June 08, 2017:

Check out Davy Knowles!

jay on February 24, 2017:

Beth Hart + Joe Bonamassa - a great pair!

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on February 16, 2017:

Each generation makes music that draws on what came before. All those great rock band from the sixties were playing blues rock.

Lyn from England on February 16, 2017:

Thank you for sharing... some here I'd have not thought of, some I didn't know. Interesting how some are almost cross genre too. I love the blues and grew up with it - only I thought it was called "jam session" many musicians warm and play blues for pleasure. blues music is from the heart :0)

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on December 21, 2016:

Thanks Jomo

Jomo on December 19, 2016:

Missing Gary Clark Jr :)

Jayar on December 09, 2016:

No Beth Heart? Shameful omission.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on October 24, 2016:

Thanks for the suggestions Real Texan. I have heart Ronny Earl, but not Mike Wheeler. This article is, by no means, a complete list of contemporary blues artists. That would be a long list indeed.

Real Texan on October 21, 2016:

Don't see any mention of Ronnie Earl out of Philly. Check out his channel on Pandora. The guy is incredible and wide ranging in his blues styles.

Also worth checking out is Mike Wheeler Band, which I saw this week at Kingston Mines in Chicago. Terrific performer with some original music.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 15, 2016:

Congrats on HOTD, Sherry. Though I never heard of any on these blues artist before, I've heard of Kenny Wayne. This is a great insightful hub on 10 blues artist who's keeping the art of blues music alive.

nuffsaidstan on April 15, 2016:

Hi, great article, love the Blues. If i may suggest take a look at Joanne Shaw Taylor a young Blues guitarist from my home town of Birmingham , England.

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on August 20, 2015:

Good choice, love her!

Sarah Galli from Sicily on August 20, 2015:

Yes listening to Janiva now! Amazing!

Essie from Southern California on April 23, 2015:

My husband and I are blues fans, so I knew quite a few of your listed artists, but ... there were some I didn't . I have their names and will be checking them out. Another great hub! You rock! Voted up!

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on November 20, 2014:

I have only heard of Robert Cray. I thought the blues died with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Good to know it is alive and kicking. Great hub!

DJLARAI on November 19, 2014:

Oh wow..it would seem we are in the same area..smiles wonder how close you are to me!.. also being in the Sierra Foothills, CA...grins.. you are very welcome..I consider myself a "student of the blues" I am totally lost when I do not have them!..

twoseven from Madison, Wisconsin on April 09, 2014:

Very cool! I had only heard of Robert Cray and Susan Tedeschi (who I love!!) before this. I will check some of these out. My young sons love guitar playing, and I'll use some of your videos to introduce them to some new artists!

Rich from Kentucky on April 07, 2014:

Sherry - Nice article. I was surprised, and somewhat honored, when I got to the end and found you'd linked up with my hub on Joe Bonamassa. Well done and many thanks!

Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 07, 2014:

@B. Leekley - I really appreciate your stopping by, thank you for your compliments. Nice to meet a fellow blues lover.

@Act 3 - I discovered Michael Burks shortly after his untimely death. I was so shocked and disappointing that he was already gone before I knew of him or had a chance to see him live. I'm glad to hear that you put some effort into finding good music.

chet thomas from Athens, GA on April 07, 2014:

I tend to dig around in search of interesting music a lot, so I knew most of these folks, but not Michael Burks. A nice find - thanks!

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 07, 2014:

Up, Useful, Interesting, Awesome, and shared.

I love the best examples of about any kind of music, but I love the blues the best. Thank you for introducing me to these performers.

I think this article is well written and laid out.