We considered doing a tribute to B.B. King, identifying some of his great songs (“Everyday I Have the Blues”, “The Thrill is Gone”), his great live shows (playing until he was 89 years old), or great collaborations. However, one of his lasting legacies will be in the tens of thousands of aspiring guitarists and blues musicians he has inspired over his 70+ year career. His influence extends to some of the most notable artists today, from Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana to Jack White and Derek Trucks to U2’s David Evans (a.k.a. The Edge) and Lenny Kravitz to Ben Harper and James Bay. For our list, we look at some other known and emerging musicians who channel the brilliance and showmanship of the great blues legend. So while Mr. B.B. King has been taken from this world, his music lives on in so many.
Born in Virginia, raised in Tampa, and now based in the lively music city of New Orleans, Benjamin Booker has been blowing people’s minds the past 18 months with his scintillating blues-rock. His guitar skills are top-notch. The scary thing is that he’s only 25 years old.
Dan Auerbach has been made a name for himself in many areas – as one half of garage-blues-rock duo The Black Keys, a solo artist, and a producer. Whatever he does, he electrifies, which applies to his guitar skills. Whether he’s blaring garage rock or playing a shimmering blues track, the Akron, Ohio native often is noted with the likes of Jack White and Derek Trucks as among the best of their generation.
Gary Clark, Jr.
Who hasn’t been blown away by Gary Clark, Jr.? The tall, lanky Texan made noise back in 2010 but his star exploded in 2012 after a number of well-known artists, such as Alicia Keys, started sharing his name across various media. Despite increased mainstream success, including a Grammy win, Clark remains true to its roots – rocking out blues-rock with the best of them. At just 31 years old, he’s already considered one of the preeminent guitar players and blues musicians on the planet.
Joanne Shaw Taylor
Joanne Shaw Taylor may be the least recognizable name on this list, but the British blues musician and guitarist is a powerhouse. She’s a throwback to the blues artists of the past, and her sound and talent might reflect B.B. King’s the most. She’s an underrated talent, but one who should not be overlooked. The 28-year old has serious skills, and she’ll be among the most influential blues artists of her generation, if she isn’t already.
Jordan Cook (a.k.a. Reignwolf)
Jordan Cook – a.k.a. Reignwolf – might be the biggest showman on this list. His live shows are mind-blowing and delirious, as he has magnetism that draws you in. However, it isn’t his tendency to body surf in crowds while playing his guitar or the multiple tricks he does, but audiences get mesmerized by his quick fingers and the maddening skills and sounds he can make. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing in front of 20,000 people or an audience of 10, the native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will give people a show and a lesson on what it is to be a blues-rocker.
What B.B. King taught us was that the blues was mostly about the message, and the music was the medium that we used to communicate our words. The time to add a guitar, piano, or saxophone solo was at the point of the song’s crescendo, not just to blast the strings at any point. There might not be a better young musician today that understands this beauty and subtlety of blues than Leon Bridges. And while a gifted guitar player, Bridges understands that the sum is more than its parts, working in unison with his band to create a great combination of blues, soul, and gospel music.
Quinn Sullivan is only 16 years old. Think for a moment – 16 years old. This is an age where most kids would be worrying about their hairstyles, flirting with someone, or doing whatever a 16-year old does. Sullivan isn’t an ordinary teenager. He’s instead one of the emerging great blues guitarists right now. The young man has some mad skills that even the likes of Buddy Guy and JW Jones have recognized. Need proof? Watch the video below.
Speaking of guitar whiz kids, Mississippi native Christone Ingram has been mesmerizing blues audiences for the past 3 or 4 years. Ingram is only 16 years old, but he’s been performing in front of live audiences since he was 12 (and maybe younger). He’s a classic blues player with a traditional sound. Not surprisingly, he already has a nickname – “KingFish”. The young man was born to play the blues.
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