The Renasant Convention Center was packed with blues musicians, fans, and music-world luminaries on May 5th, anxious to see who would be the winners at the 43rd Annual Blues Music Awards. Besides awarding honors in 25 categories, the BMAs, as is its tradition, featured performances from many nominees, with the gala ending in a jubilant all-star jam.
Tommy Castro was the evening’s top award winner, earning three BMAs, first for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year (which he won previously in 2010 and 2008) and for Album of the Year for Tommy Castro Presents A Bluesman Came to Town, and lastly for taking home the honors for Band of the Year with his band, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers.
This year, Sue Foley was one of the two double winners, capturing Traditional Blues Album for the first time and winning Traditional Blues Female Artist – Koko Taylor Award, repeating her 2020 win. Fresh off his Grammy win, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram took home Contemporary Blues Male Artist for the third consecutive year. He was also awarded Contemporary Blues Album, which he previously won a BMA for in 2020.
Song of the Year was awarded for the first time to Selwyn Birchwood with “I’d Climb Mountains," which he also recorded. Making their BMA debut for Best Emerging Artist Album was Rodd Bland & The Members Only Band for LIVE ON BEALE STREET: A Tribute to Bobby “Blue” Bland.
Retaining their titles were seven-time BMA winners Keb’ Mo for Acoustic Blues Artist and Curtis Salgado for Soul Blues Male, Danielle Nicole won Instrumentalist Bass. Jimmy Carpenter captured Instrumentalist - Horn and, Mike Zito claimed the Blues Rock Album with Ressurection.
Re-gaining their BMA crowns were Eric Bibb for Acoustic Blues Album, Albert Castiglia for Blues Rock Artist, Annika Chambers for Soul Blues Female, and Jason Ricci for Instrumentalist – Harmonica.
Winners of multiple BMA Awards making their debut in a category were Taj Mahal for Traditional Blues Male Artist, Tom Hambridge for Instrumentalist – Drums, and Eric Gales for Instrumentalist – Guitar. In addition, Mike Finnegan won Instrumentalist – Piano (Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award), and John Nemeth took home Instrumentalist – Vocals. Lastly, Zac Harmon was awarded Soul Blues Album for Long As I Got My Guitar.
Here is the complete list of Blues Music Award winners:
Acoustic Blues Album Dear America, Eric Bibb
Acoustic Blues Artist Keb’ Mo’
Album of the Year Tommy Castro Presents A Bluesman Came to Town, Tommy Castro
B.B. King Entertainer Tommy Castro
Band of the Year Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
Best Emerging Artist Album Live on Beale Street: A Tribute to Bobby “Blue” Bland,
Rodd Bland & the Members Only Band
Blues Rock Album Resurrection, Mike Zito
Blues Rock Artis Albert Castiglia
Contemporary Blues Album 662, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Contemporary Blues Female Artist Vanessa Collier
Contemporary Blues Male Artist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Instrumentalist-Bass Danielle Nicole
Instrumentalist-Drums Tom Hambridge
Instrumentalist-Guitar Eric Gales
Instrumentalist-Harmonica Jason Ricci
Instrumentalist-Horn Jimmy Carpenter
Instrumentalist Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Mike Finnigan
Instrumentalist-Vocals John Nemeth
Song of the Year “I’d Climb Mountains,” written & performed by Selwyn Birchwood
Soul Blues Album Long As I Got My Guitar, Zac Harmon
Soul Blues Female Artist Annika Chambers
Soul Blues Male Artist Curtis Salgado
Traditional Blues Album Pinky’s Blues, Sue Foley
Traditional Blues Female Artist Koko Taylor Award: Sue Foley
Traditional Blues Male Artist Taj Mahal
The Blues Music Awards represented just one of the many highlights of the Blues Foundation’s exciting Blues Music Week, kicking off on May 4th with its Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The BHOF inductees included pre-war performer and songwriter Lucille Bogan, the soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll star Little Willie John, renowned songwriter, artist Johnnie Taylor, and legendary songwriter Otis Blackwell.
Classic recordings that the Blues Hall of Fame honored this year were Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Farther Up the Road,” Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight,” B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” by the Baby Face Leroy Trio as well as Bo Diddley’s classic album, Bo Diddley. This year’s non-performing inductee was Mary Katherine Aldin, who worked as an editor, disc jockey, compiler, and annotator of blues and folk reissue albums. The Classic of Blues Literature entrant was Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast, written by British author Bruce Bastin.
Judith Black, President, and CEO of the Blues Foundation, effused: “What an amazing reunion after nearly three years of separation. It was an awards evening filled with awesome music, wonderful fellowshipping, and exciting honors. It was apparent everywhere you looked that people were thrilled to be back and, I am sure they could tell we were ecstatic to welcome everyone back.”
The Blues Foundation is the world-renowned Memphis-based organization whose mission is to preserve blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues, and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form. Founded in 1980, the Foundation has over 4,000 individual members and 175 affiliated blues societies representing 50,000 fans and professionals worldwide. Its signature honors and events — the Blues Music Awards, Blues Hall of Fame inductions, International Blues Challenge, and Keeping the Blues Alive Awards — make it the international hub of blues music. Its HART Fund provides the blues community with medical assistance for musicians in need, while Blues in the Schools programs and Generation Blues Scholarships expose new generations to blues music. The newly created COVID-19 Blues Musician Emergency Relief Fund has already come to the rescue for close to 100 blues musicians in need of financial assistance for basic necessities such as housing and utilities. The Blues Hall of Fame Museum, located in Downtown Memphis, adds the opportunity for blues lovers of all ages to interact with blues music and history. The Foundation staff serves the global blues community with answers, information, and news throughout the year.