Oh, the irony! 2020 has been a disastrous year for any professional musician not insulated by superstardom, with live music ravaged and with it the opportunity for many CD and merchandise sales. But at the same time it’s been an astonishingly good year for new studio albums – possibly the best I can remember over the six years I’ve been writing this stuff.
So with that in mind, Part 1 of this year’s Christmas Stocking review is given over to reminders of ten of the best examples - and look out for the links to the original album reviews. This ain’t a chart, and it’s not an exhaustive list, so you may well have favourites that don’t appear. But that probably just underlines the strength in depth that 2020 brought us.
Zito was first out of the blocks, evidently driven by frustration and financial concern after he was forced to abandon a lengthy European tour that had barely started. Knocked out in just two weeks, Quarantine Blues crackled with creative energy, and did what Zito is best at, getting beyond pure blues into broader terrain. As I said in my review, it’s a goddamn rock’n’roll rekkud! Here he is with the Petty-esque 'Looking Out This Window', from a rare live excursion in June this year.
The Birdmens gang, inspired by a bundle of drum loops from producer and guitarist Dave Doherty, and featuring the likes of Ian Siegal, Jon Amor, Bob Fridzema and Jonny Henderson, rocked up at the end of May with Lockdown Loaded, an eclectic batch of barnstormers ranging from Delta stomp to Zepped-up funk to keening Americana. Have a gander at this video of ‘Cover It Up’, which sounds a bit like it’s escaped from the theme to ancient TV show A Man In A Suitcase!
Which just leaves us with three more familiar names to conjure with - Walter Trout, Jim Kirkpatrick, and King King.
And then there's King King. Alan Nimmo has recast the King King line-up, and completed their metamorphosis from modern British blues heralds to fully-fledged Adult Orientated Rockers. With a leading role for newly-liberated secret weapon Jonny Dyke on keyboards, new album Maverick finds the KK boys switching from glossy hard rock to gob-smacking power ballad and back again with consummate ease. Check out the video for the mountainous 'Never Give In' for starters.
So there we have the first instalment of goodies for your edification and delight. Merry Christmas one and all - go easy on the cake and mince pies, and we'll get together for Part 2 next week!