The 5 best new blues albums you need to hear right now

Henry's Funeral Shoe
(Image credit: Henry's Funeral Shoe)

You want blues? We got blues.

Henry’s Funeral Shoe: Smart Phone Rabbit Hole

You’ll see Henry’s Funeral Shoe plugging in in a South Wales tap room and think to yourself: “For fuck’s sake. Another sub-Stripes garage-blues duo. Two more troglodytes thumping away like it’s 2003.” 

Those who stick around, though, will find that Aled and Brennig Clifford have bigger ideas, the brothers spinning jet-black tales like The League Of Gentlemen being egged on by Spike Milligan, set to a musical palette shaped by roots-mode Primal Scream, Stooges spit and the horn lines of Exile On Main St

It’s kept them unsigned – possibly by choice – but ensures Smart Phone Rabbit Hole is as engaging as the album title (a dig at phone-swiping zombies). Everybody Says Hi and High Shoulders Everywhere – both superior route-one stompers – get listeners settled in, but the gamut is what impresses, with Right Time’s mournful country soul, the scuzz-punk of Quick As A Hiccup and the mandolin kiss-off of Ball & Chain. Henry’s Funeral Shoe could be five different bands, all of them excellent.

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Kris Barras Band: Light It Up

Everything about Kris Barras is muscular, from the tendon-bursting riffs of Ignite to the Broken Teeth chorus that reminds us of his sideline as an UFC killing machine (‘I ain’t never been afraid of cracked knuckles and broken teeth’). 

Meanwhile, the finger-twisting down-home licks of What You Get suggest he’s learned a thing or two from fronting Supersonic Blues Machine opposite Billy Gibbons.

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P.P. Arnold: The New Adventures Of…

Having aired her long-shelved 60s material on 2017’s The Turning Tide, the 72-year-old soul singer could have sat back, vindicated and spent. 

No chance. Arnold’s new tunes are belters, from the dainty string flourishes of The Magic Hour that recall She’s A Rainbow, to the thrusting modernity of Hold On To Your Dreams. This album should do the business. 

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Sunjay: Devil Came Calling

Sunjay deals in folk-blues with bite, his cowboy strum often belying some deliciously spiteful lyrics (‘How the hell could I have fell for someone as mean and ugly as you?’ he wonders on Mean & Ugly). 

At his best – on the roll-and-tumble Mississippi Blues, say – his acoustic mastery seems effortless, and Faith Healer is a beauty, too, albeit with shades of David Brent.

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Katey Brooks: Revolute

This Bristol-born singer-songwriter is bigger than the ‘blues’ tag; her material skips through gospel, rock, soul and country, her themes run from #MeToo to past shamings for her sexuality. 

But Brooks’s astonishing bruised voice always keeps one foot anchored in our genre, and on moments like The Sweetest Things it’s a-snap-to-attention tool that could and should springboard her to great things.

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Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.