The 10 Texas Blues Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Watching the Devil tune his guitar in the middle of the night isn't how Robert (or Tommy) Johnson imagined he'd be spending his Saturday night. When that ol' demon started playing songs, fire flew from his fingertips as an otherworldly sound reverberated into the night. According to legend, despite his guitar exploding, Johnson quickly made a deal, sold his soul and became one of the godfathers of the blues.
Since Johnson's meeting at the Crossroads, Delta blues roots have developed into distinctive styles: Chicago blues, an acoustic guitar and harmonica-based Delta blues sound; Memphis blues, a guitar-based blues that transformed into jug bands; gospel blues, a combination of blues guitar and evangelistic lyrics; and Texas blues, a distinctive sound relying exclusively on the guitar but sometimes big band music will creep into the mix.
Some Texas blues musicians prefer electric guitars to harness the Lone Star sound, while others use Dobros or old hardtops. No matter their ax of choice, Texas blues artists have been at the forefront of blues for more than 90 years.
In honor of Johnson's journey into hell, here are 10 Texas blues albums you should hear before the Devil arrives at your doorstop.
10. Zuzu Bollin - Texas Bluesman (1993)
A legend among Texas blues legends, Zuzu Bollin is a blues guitarist who blazed across stages for decades before releasing an album. This collection exhibits Bollin's guitar skills sprinkled with his huge voice. The title track "Texas Bluesman" is sure to please blues enthusiasts with mournful lyrics and wailing guitar. The album is a rare find in record stores, but it's easy enough to find online.
9. Freddie King - Freddie King Sings (1989, compilation)
When the "Texas Cannonball" exploded on to the stage, his guitar skills quickly solidified his place among the Kings of Blues alongside Albert and B.B. At his first audition for Chess Records, Freddie King was told he sounded too much like B.B. King. Freddie took this criticism and used it to transform his sound. He's now considered the most emotional of the "Three Kings." Freddie's first album demonstrates this raw blues emotion with hits such as "Have You Ever Loved a Woman," "Lonesome Whistle Blues" and "You've Got to Love Her with a Feeling."
8. Charles Brown - Driftin' Blues: The Best Of (1995, compilation)
Making pianos cry is just part of this Texas bluesman's charm. After a stint with Three Blazers, a popular 1940s nightclub band, Charles Brown began a solo career in 1948, which resulted in more than 200 sides and several hits. Despite his musical success, Charles spent the next two decades working as janitor before Eric Clapton and the Eagles rediscovered his work. In the '90s, Charles recorded a number of albums, including this best-of compilation.