The 10 best blues songs you might not have heard

We like to celebrate not just the legends of the blues but also the unsung heroes alike, while championing the new generation of bands and solo artists.

Here are 10 early blues nuggets chosen by The Blues Magazine editor, Ed Mitchell…

DOCTOR ROSS – Chicago Breakdown (1953)
“Forged from guitar, harmonica and washboard, the good Doctor’s brisk Chicago Breakdown was produced by Sam Philips at Sun Studio in Memphis.”

“An aural shootout of icy guitar licks and tinkling joanna settles into a smouldering blues on this essential recording.”

MAX ‘BLUES’ BAILEY – Delinquency Blues (1949)
“Cut in Nashville, this atmospheric track warns men to ‘get smart’, find ‘a middle age woman’ and ‘let the schoolgirls be’. Timely advice.”

BOY GREEN – Play My Juke Box (Year unknown)
“Recorded sometime in the 40s, the mysterious Mr Green’s brilliantly picked country blues sounds like the missing link between Robert Johnson and 50s Memphis rockabilly.”

BOBBY SAXTON – Trying To Make A Living (1960)
“All but forgotten, Bobby shoulda been a contender on the evidence of this Chicago-spawned sizzler, featuring guitar legend Earl ‘brother of John Lee’ Hooker.”

HOWARD ARMSTRONG & TED BOGAN – State Street Rag (1934)
“Mandolin-fuelled blues is making a steady comeback. This rollicking country blues proves the trend is nothing to be afraid of.”

ALBERTA HUNTER – Downhearted Blues (1922 )
“Bessie Smith launched her career with a 1923 recording of Downhearted Blues. Alberta Hunter, who co-wrote the song, released her equally stunning take a year earlier.”

LUCILLE BROGAN – Shave ’Em Dry (1935)
“When Lucille cut Shave ‘Em Dry in 1935, the filthy minx also did an explicit take that would make 2 Live Crew blush. Today it’s harder to find the clean version. NSFW.”

BIG AMOS PATTON – Move With You Baby (1966)
“Peppered with blasts of harp, this 60s mod-worshipped R&B b-side shakes even harder than its hit a-side, He Won’t Bite Me Twice.”

‘LIL’ SON’ JACKSON – Milford Blues (1951)
“It might have been recorded in the early 1950s, but this obscure Texan ignored the growing sophistication of the era’s blues for a haunting mid-30s vibe.”

Ed Mitchell

Ed Mitchell was the Editor of The Blues Magazine from 2012-16, and a contributor to Classic Rock and Louder. He died in October 2022, aged 52. A one-time Reviews Editor on Total Guitar magazine from 2003, his guitar-modding column, Ed’s Shed, appeared in print on both sides of the Atlantic (in both Total Guitar and Guitar World magazines), and he wrote stories for Classic Rock and Guitarist. Between them, the websites Louder, MusicRadar and Guitar World host over 400 of his articles – among them interviews with Billy Gibbons, Paul Weller, Brian Setzer, profiles on Roy Buchanan, Duane Allman and Peter Green, a joint interview with Jimmy Page and Jack White, and dozens of guitar reviews – and that’s just the ones that made it online.