Ten Contemporary Women of the Blues
Women have always been an integral part of the blues. Some of the pioneers, like Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie, and Bessie Smith had an enormous influence on the genre. Many of them were powerful vocalists, some were also skilled instrumentalists.
After the 1930s, the feminine influence diminished. There were still some powerful blues women, like Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the "Queen of the Blues" Koko Taylor, who maintained the presence of ladies singing and playing the blues. Still, they were few and far between.
In modern times, there seems to be a resurgence of powerful female performers and band leaders. Here are a few of my favorite contemporary blues women.
Contemporary Blues Women
- Anna Popović
- Beth Hart
- Danielle Nicole
- Janiva Magness
- Joanne Shaw Taylor
- Larkin Poe
- Ruthie Foster
- Shemekia Copeland
- Sue Foley
- Susan Tedeschi
This list is in alphabetical order. The numbers are not rankings.
1. Anna Popović
Popović is an exceptional guitarist and singer from Belgrade, Serbia (born May 13, 1976). Although she is a beautiful woman, she's more than just a pretty face. She played guitar from an early age, and performed with the band Hush from 1995 to 1998. They recorded a well-received album, Hometown. After Hush split up Anna formed the Ana Popović Band, in the Netherlands.
In 2000, she did a cover of "Belly Button Window" on the Jimi Hendrix tribute album, Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix. The next year, she released her successful first solo album Hush! The album was recorded in Memphis, TN. It was just the beginning for this talented young musician. She has earned many awards and much acclaim. In 2012, she relocated to Memphis, Tennessee.
Anna Popović is a prolific artist, these are the albums she has released so far.
- 2001 - Hush!
- 2003 - Comfort to the Soul
- 2005 - Ana! Live in Amsterdam
- 2007 - Still Making History
- 2009 - Blind for Love
- 2010 - An evening at Trasimeno Lake
- 2011 - Unconditional
- 2013 - Can You Stand the Heat
- 2015 - Blue Room
- 2016 - Trilogy
- 2018 - Like It on Top
2. Beth Hart
Beth Hart is an American singer, songwriter and multi- instrumentalist. Besides singing, she plays piano, guitar, bass guitar, cello and percussion. She was born January 24, 1972 in Los Angeles, California, where she grew up and still lives.
She got her first taste of fame when she had a top ten hit with her 1999 single "LA Song (Out of This Town)" Her music has been very successful in Europe. She has become closely associated with Joe Bonamassa, touring and collaborating with him.
I don't know what is is about her voice, it's not the sweetest, it doesn't have the most range, but she puts so much of herself into it. When Beth Hart sings it gives me goosebumps.
Perhaps it's because of the hardships she's had to overcome in her life. She has a complicated relationship with her father, and has struggled with addiction and bi-polar disorder, but she seems to have her life going in a good direction.
- 1993 - Beth Hart and the Ocean of Souls
- 1996 - Immortal
- 1999 - Screamin' for My Supper
- 2003 - Leave the Light On
- 2007 - 37 Days
- 2010 - My California
- 2011 - Don't Explain with Joe Bonamassa
- 2012 - Bang Bang Boom Boom
- 2013 - Seesaw with Joe Bonamassa
- 2015 - Better Than Home
- 2016 - Fire on the Floor
- 2018 - Black Coffee with Joe Bonamassa
3. Danielle Nicole
Founding member, lead singer, and bass player of Kansas City blues-rock band Trampled Under Foot, Danielle Nicole (formerly Danielle Nicole Schnebelen) went solo in 2015 with her debut album “Wolf Den.”
Trampled Under Foot was a collaborative effort with her brothers, Kris and Nick Schnebelen. She started playing the bass to keep it a family band. She fell in love with the instrument, and the challenge of it. Her distinctive style helped her become the first woman ever to win the Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist, Bass from the Blues Foundation in 2014.
Danielle says “From my years of playing blues festivals, I've seen that younger and younger audiences are getting into the blues. I think that people want to hear authentic music again.”
If authentic is what they want, they've got it. This girl is the real deal.
- 2015 - Wolf Den (September 15, 2015)
- 2017 - Live at the Gospel Lounge (May 22, 2017) (sold only at concerts)
- 2018 - Cry No More (February 23, 2018)
4. Janiva Magness
Janiva Magness has earned the right to sing the blues. The singer/songwriter was born in Detroit Michigan on January 30th, 1957. She lost both of her parents to suicide when she was still a child. She was raised in foster care. When she was 16 she became pregnant and put her baby up for adoption.
Magness was drawn to the blues by the music of Otis Rush. The music touched something insider her. It not only helped her heal, it provided her a means of supporting herself.
Known for her smoky, sultry voice, Magness has become a blues star. She has received many awards and released many albums.
When I first heard her, I could not stop listening.
- 1991 - More Than Live
- 1997 - It Takes One to Know One
- 1999 - My Bad Luck Soul
- 2001 - Blues Ain't Pretty
- 2003 - Use What You Got
- 2004 - Bury Him at the Crossroads
- 2006 - Do I Move You?
- 2008 - What Love Will Do
- 2010 - The Devil is an Angel Too
- 2012 - Stronger For It
- 2014 - Original
- 2016 - Love Wins Again
- 2017 - Blue Again
- 2018 - Love Is An Army
5. Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor is a talented blues rock guitarist and singer. She grew up in Wednesbury, England. Taylor began playing the blues in her early teens, inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. In an amazing bit of luck, David A. Stewart (Eurythmics) heard Taylor play, and in 2002 invited her to join his band, D.U.P., on tour in Europe.
Her first solo album, White Sugar, debuted in 2009. Since then her career has taken off like a rocket. She's a star of the blues-rock world in the UK. She has toured extensively around the world, released critically acclaimed albums and won a global following.
Honestly I enjoy her guitar playing more than her singing, but I love to watch her face when she plays.
Shaw is set to release her sixth studio album, Reckless Heart in 2019.
- 2009 - White Sugar
- 2010 - Diamonds in the Dirt
- 2012 - Almost Always Never
- 2013 - Songs from the Road
- 2014 - The Dirty Truth
- 2016 - Wild
- 2019 - Reckless Heart
6. Larkin Poe
Wow! 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.
The band, Larkin Poe, out of Atlanta, GA, is lead by sisters Rebecca Lovell (born January 30, 1991) and Megan Lovell (born May 12, 1989). Rebecca is amazing on lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and piano. Megan is fantastic on vocals and lap-steel. Their voices blend together as if they can read each-others minds.
The sisters started out in a band called The Lovell Sisters, along with their older sister Jessica. When that band called it quits, Rebecca and Megan came together again in Larkin Poe. The band is named after their great-great-great-grandfather, and they are distantly related to the poet, Edgar Allen Poe.
Besides cutting numerous independent albums, they have 4 studio albums under their belt:
- 2014 - KIN
- 2016 - Reskinned
- 2017 - Peach
- 2018 - Venom & Faith
7. Ruthie Foster
Ruthie Foster was born in a small town in Texas on February 10, 1964. She first learned to sing in church, and that gospel influence has stayed with her all of her life.
When Ruthie left her home to join the Navy, she put her musical talents to good use performing at recruitment drives across the country. When she got out the Navy she moved to New York City to try her hand at a career in music, but she found she could not get a record company to let her make the kind of music she loved.
Ruthie moved back to Texas and settled in Austin. Several years later she self-produced her first album. Full Circle, was released in 1997, followed by Crossover in 1999. The two albums caught the attention of Texas independent label, Blue Corn Music. Since then, Ruthie has gone on to release seven albums with Blue Corn over the past twelve years.
She has also collaborated on stage with artists such as Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers, and Susan Tedeschi. She has recorded with Warren Haynes, Big Head Todd, and The Blind Boys of Alabama, just to name a few. She has won awards and honors to numerous to mention.
- 1997 - Full Circle
- 1999 - Crossover
- 2002 - Runaway Soul
- 2004 - Stages
- 2007 - The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
- 2009 - The Truth According to Ruthie Foster
- 2011 - Live at Antone's
- 2012 - Let It Burn
- 2014 - Promise of a Brand New Day
- 2017 - Joy Comes Back
8. Shemekia Copeland
Born Charon Shemekia Copeland in Harlem on April 10, 1979, Shemekia is an electric blues vocalist. Her father is Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland.
Shemekia began singing as a child. She performed at the Cotton Club when she was ten years old. She made a name by herself by touring with her father, as his open act, when she was in her teens.
At the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival, Copeland was presented Koko Taylor's crown, and honored as the new “Queen of the Blues,” by Koko Taylor's daughter, Cookie Taylor.
In 2016, Copeland won a Blues Music Award in the Contemporary Blues Female Artist' category
In October 2015, her album Outskirts of Love peaked at number 6 in the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart.
- 1998 - Turn the Heat Up
- 2000 - Wicked
- 2002 - Talking to Strangers
- 2005 - The Soul Truth
- 2009 - Never Going Back
- 2011 - Shemekia Copeland - Deluxe Edition
- 2012 - 33 1/3
- 2015 - Outskirts of Love
- 2018 - America's Child
9. Sue Foley
Originally from Canada (born March 29, 1968) Sue Foley is multi-award winning musician. She played her first blues gig at the tender age of 16.
Foley moved to Austin, Texas, and she made her first album, Young Girl Blues, when she was 21. That first album proved her talent as a proficient blues guitarist, inspired songwriter, and captivating vocalist.
Since then she has toured steadily, recorded many albums, and shared the stage with such legends as BB King, Buddy Guy, Lucinda Williams and Tom Petty.
In addition to playing music, Foley is working on a project called Guitar Woman. She has conducted dozens of interviews with the world’s leading female guitarists.
Between 2001 and 2008, she was busy writing articles, organizing and promoting concerts, and working on a book. She is fascinated by gender studies in music and wants to promote great women guitar players.
She also returned to university to get her graduate’s degree, so you can see why it took a little longer to get this latest album out.
In 2016 Foley returned to Austin to collaborate with old friends and Texas music legends including Jimmie Vaughan and Billy Gibbons. She's released her first new album in six years, with a little help from her friends.
- 1992 - Young Girl Blues
- 1993 - Without a Warning
- 1995 - Big City Blues
- 1996 - Walk in the Sun
- 1998 - Ten Days in November
- 2000 - Love Comin' Down
- 2000 - Back to the Blues
- 2002 - Where the Action Is...
- 2004 - Change
- 2006 - New Used Car
- 2007 - Time Bomb
- 2009 - Queen Bee: The Antone's Collection
- 2010 - He Said She Said
- 2012 - Beyond the Crossroads
- 2018 - The Ice Queen
10. Susan Tedeschi
Susan Tedeschi has a powerful and earthy singing voice. Her guitar playing has been influenced by artists such as Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Born on November 9th, 1970, in Boston, Massachusetts, Susan Tedeschi sang from an early age. By the time she was 18 she had her own band. She started the renowned Susan Tedeschi Band in 1994.
The Susan Tedeschi Band made its reputation opening for acts including B.B. King, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan, and The Allman Brothers. They gained national exposure when they opened for The Rolling Stones in 2003.
She has been married to Derek Trucks, slide guitarist from the Allman Brothers Band, since 2001. They have pooled their talents in The Tedeschi Trucks Band. Anybody who thinks a girl can't play blues guitar has not heard her yet, and Tedeschi's voice is a perfect compliment her husband, Derek Trucks' intense slide guitar.
- 2011 – Revalator
- 2012 - Everybody's Talkin'
- 2013 - Made up Mind
- 2016 - Let Me By
- 2017 - Live From the Fox Oakland
By No Means is This all There is
There are plenty of other great women playing the blues in this century. Here, I have focused, first of all, on those I love. Also, these are women who are currently active (touring and making albums). I think it's wonderful that there are so many fabulous women playing the blues that I have to pick and choose who goes on my list.
If you liked this article, check out my list of new blues albums.
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© 2019 Sherry Hewins