MEMPHIS, Tenn.— For the 40th year, the Blues Music Awards will present a one-of-a-kind gathering of renowned performers and rising stars who reflect the breadth and variety of talent found in today’s blues music scene. Universally recognized as the top accolade for blues musicians, the BMAs annually honor the past year’s exceptional achievements in performances, recordings, and songwriting, along with serving to sustain the blues’ rich cultural traditions. This celebratory evening, which ranks as a premier event in the music world, traditionally attracts almost all its nominees; the musicians typically perform at the award show too.
The Blues Foundation will host its historic 40th Annual Blues Music Awards on Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at Memphis’ Cook Convention Center. Individual tickets are $150 per person; Regular Tables for 10 are $1,500; while Premium Tables for 10 are $1,800 each. All tickets can be purchased at www.blues.org beginning January 9. The Blues Foundation’s block of rooms at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel will be open for reservations January 9 as well, and Sheraton reservation links will be up on www.blues.org that day too.
Leading the way this year with the most nominations is the keyboard whiz Anthony Geraci, who is in the running in six categories. The Boston-area musician is up for consideration for Song of the Year (“Angelina, Angelina”); Album of the Year and Traditional Blues Album (Why Did You Have To Go); Traditional Blues Male Artist; Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award, and, with his group, the Boston Blues All-Stars, Band of the Year. If this six-pack isn’t enough, Geraci also is a part of the band The Proven Ones, which garnered a Contemporary Blues Album nod for Wild Again. Furthermore, his fellow Proven Ones mates, Jimi Bott and Willie J. Campbell, are up for best drummer and bassist honors, respectively.
Also standing out are the sublime singer Shemekia Copeland and Chicago-based bluesman Nick Moss, who each are nominated in four categories. They both are battling Geraci in the Album of the Year category; Copeland for America’s Child and Moss for The High Cost of Low Living, the Nick Moss Band effort featuring Dennis Gruenling. Additionally, Copeland is up for consideration for the Contemporary Blues Album, Vocalist of the Year, and Contemporary Blues Female Artist honors. Worth noting too is that her hit single, “Ain’t Got Time For Hate,” is a Song of the Year candidate for its songwriters John Hahn and Will Kimbrough. Moss’ other three nominations are for Traditional Blues Album, Traditional Blues Male Artist, and Band of the Year (for the Nick Moss Band). Gruenling, meanwhile, nabbed his own nomination in the Harmonica instrumentalist category.
The Blues Music Award nominations are just the start of a big January for The Blues Foundation. They will close the month with another signature event: the 35th Annual International Blues Challenge will take over Memphis January 22-26. This big week of blues, which is packed with performances, panel discussions, meet & greets, film screenings and exhibits, is highlighted by honoring of 2019’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipients (January 25) and the IBC Finals competition concert (January 26). To purchase an International Blues Challenge Pass and final seating upgrades, along with tickets to the Keeping the Blues Alive Awards Brunch and Ceremony, please visit this link: http://bit.ly/2scWEhP
A trio of Blues Hall of Famers — Bobby Rush, Joe Louis Walker, and Buddy Guy— could add a 2019 BMA award to their trophy cases. Rush is nominated for the B.B. King Entertainer Award (an honor he won in 2015). Walker’s collaboration with Bruce Katz and Giles Robson, Journeys to the Heart of the Blues, is a contender for both best Acoustic Album and Album of the Year. Guy garnered nods for Traditional Blues Album for The Blues Is Alive and Well and Song of the Year for “Cognac,” which he co-wrote with Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming.
Hambridge, Guy’s producer, is among the contenders in the Drums Instrumentalist category.
Among those battling Guy, Hahn, Kimbrough, and Geraci for Song of the Year (for “No Mercy in This Land”) is Ben Harper, who is one of several nominees whose name will be familiar to rock music fans. ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons is contending for Blues Rock Album (The Big Bad Blues) and Blues Rock Artist, where Kenny Wayne Shepherd also is in the running. The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson is on the ballot for the Harmonica Instrumentalist title, while the legendary soul/gospel singer Candi Staton is vying for Soul Blues Female Artist honors.
This year’s crop of nominees holds a significant increase of recognition for female instrumentalists, which reflects The Blues Foundation’s continuing work of diversifying its large group of BMA nominators. Laura Chavez is among the Instrumentalist: Guitar contenders, while Marcia Ball is up for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Award (a title she has won several times before). Instrumentalist: Bass is one of Danielle Nicole’s three nominations; she is also among the four women (out of five) in the Instrumentalist: Vocals category. Meanwhile, Mindi Abair, Nancy Wright, and Vanessa Collier represent three of the six Instrumentalist: Horn nominees.
This year’s sisterhood of nominees also includes two pairs of actual sisters. Samantha Fish, who is on the ballot for Contemporary Blues Album and Contemporary Blues Female Artist (which she won last year), is joined by her sister Amanda Fish, a contender for Best Emerging Artist Album. Larkin Poe, fronted by sisters Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell, was an Emerging Artist Album nominee last year, and is up for Band of the Year this year. Notable too in the Emerging Artist category, which offers a glimpse of the next generation of blues stars, is that two of the performers have also earned additional nods: Ben Rice for Acoustic Album and Acoustic Artist while Lindsay Beaver is a Koko Taylor – Traditional Blues Female Artist nominee.
Several 2018 BMA winners are trying to achieve back-to-back victories. Michael “Mudcat” Ward and Tony Braunagel have the chance to keep their respective titles as top bassist and drummer. Ruthie Foster can reclaim the Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist, and Beth Hart hopes to hold onto the top honors for Vocals while she also is a nominee in the B.B. King Entertainer and Contemporary Blues Female Artist categories,
The complete list of 40th Blues Music Award nominees can be found below as well as on The Blues Foundation’s website, www.blues.org. A ballot will be sent soon to all Blues Foundation members, who have the privilege of deciding which artists will go home with a Blues Music Award in May. Blues Foundation membership remains open through the entire voting period, which ends at 11:59 p.m. CT on February 28. Ballots are sent to all current members and to new members after they join the organization, which can be done easily by clicking on the “Join Now” button found at www.blues.org.
Major funding for the Blues Music Awards is provided by ArtsMemphis and Tennessee Arts Commission. The 40th BMAs also are sponsored by BMI®, DittyTV, Four Roses Bourbon, Gibson Foundation, Memphis Airport Authority, and Memphis Tourism.