21 Current Blues Musicians to Know in 2021 - The Document Records Store

21 Current Blues Musicians to Know in 2021

Christone Kingfish Ingram, Jimmy Duck Holmes, Marquis Knox, and Jontavious Willis
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Marquis Knox, and Jontavious Willis perform on the front steps of the Blue Front Cafe in 2017. Photographer unknown.

At Document Records, our main focus is compiling and sharing historic recordings of traditional American music. These were the works of innovators, artists who helped music to grow and change into what would become the blues (and jazz, and gospel, and country). However, traditional American music didn’t begin or end with the artists represented by Document. To this day, people continue to grow and evolve the music that grew from earlier traditions. When we talk about “keeping the blues alive”, these are the people we’re talking about—people continuing to create this music in the communities where it originated. Here are 21 of those people: twenty-one blues musicians you should know in 2021.

This is not an exhaustive list of current blues musicians. For one thing, we could only feature so many, and the list could potentially include hundreds or even thousands of artists. For another, we wanted to focus on Black American artists, who are working within the culture where blues music originated. If you know of someone who could be on this list, but who isn’t, please share their name in the comments. Thanks!

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

From his beginnings as a child prodigy in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has become an ambassador for the younger generation of blues artists. Between touring with blues legend Buddy Guy and appearing in the Marvel TV series Luke Cage, he released Kingfish, his multi-award-winning debut album for Alligator Records. He has become the face of the current generation of young blues musicians.

“Outside Of This Town,” Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

Cedric Burnside

For Mississippi Hill Country drummer and guitarist Cedric Burnside, the blues is the family business. He first went on tour with his grandfather, Hill Country blues superstar R.L. Burnside, at the age of 13, and quickly developed a reputation as one of the best blues drummers of the modern era. Now a guitarist as well as a drummer, his sound is a minimalistic but energetic and powerful update on the traditional Hill Country sound. He recently won a National Heritage Fellowship, and his album I Be Trying comes out June 25th.

“We Made It,” Cedric Burnside

Cedric Burnside’s version of “Death Bell Blues” is available on his album Benton County Relic. Versions by Tampa Red with Madlyn Davis and by Tom Dickson are available from Document Records.

Alabama Slim

Alabama Slim, the seven-foot-tall elder statesman of the New Orleans blues scene, put out his newest album, The Parlor, this January. Starting with his post-Katrina album The Mighty Flood, Slim has recorded three albums with Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to older musicians in the American South. Slim’s boogie sound and often-topical lyrics come together in a stunning combination of retro and relevant.

“Rob Me Without A Gun,” Alabama Slim

Alabama Slim’s version of “Someday Baby” is available on his album The Parlor. Versions by Big Joe Williams, Buddy Moss, and Sleepy John Estes are available from Document Records.

Amythyst Kiah

Johnson City, Tennessee’s Amythyst Kiah got her start in her native Appalachia’s old-time and bluegrass music, but expanded her repertoire to include rock and blues. Her second album included radical reimaginings of the Piedmont blues of Reverend Gary Davis, Vera Hall, and Precious Bryant. Kiah’s contributions to the Our Native Daughters project, a musical exploration of Black women’s history, won her a Grammy nomination in 2019, and her newest album, Wary And Strange, came out this Friday, June 18th.

“Polly Ann’s Hammer,” Our Native Daughters ft. Amythyst Kiah

Amythyst Kiah’s versions of “Another Man Done Gone” and “Trouble So Hard” are available on her album Amythyst Kiah And Her Chest Of Glass. Versions by Vera Hall are available from Document Records.

Little Freddie King

A true character of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, Little Freddie King came to national prominence with his 2005 album, You Don’t Know What I Know. His “gut bucket music” about troubles with women, crackheads, and natural disasters, along with his outsize personality and fashion sense, has won him appearances in Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade and the award-winning romantic crime drama film Queen & Slim.

“Crack Head Joe,” Little Freddie King

Little Freddie King’s version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” is available on WWOZ’s Vimeo. Three versions by Big Joe Williams, as well as one each by several other artists, are available from Document Records.

Adia Victoria

Since 2015, Nashville’s premier “Gothic blues” musician has been using her unique brand of electric guitar-based modern roots music to face both personal and societal demons. Her music and writing challenges romanticized and clichéd representations of the American South, while showing an uglier and more complicated reality—but one that, with hard work and compassion, can ultimately be changed.

“Stuck In The South,” Adia Victoria

Adia Victoria’s cover of “Evil Hearted Me” is available on her Baby Blues EP. The original by Victoria Spivey is available from Document Records.

Robert Finley

Robert Finley, a retired carpenter from Louisiana, may seem like an unlikely soul blues superstar, but after receiving assistance from the Music Maker Relief Foundation, he caught the attention of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who signed him to his Easy Eye Sound record label. Two albums and a semifinal finish on America’s Got Talent later, Robert Finley has proven, as it says in his signature song, that “Age Don’t Mean A Thing.” His newest album, Sharecropper’s Son, came out this spring.

“Age Don’t Mean A Thing,” Robert Finley

R.L. Boyce

R.L. Boyce, the “Big Blues Mane” of Como, Mississippi, got his start in the fife and drum bands of Napoleon Strickland and Othar Turner, playing pre-blues music from the African diaspora. In addition, he learned the local blues style from the older generation of blues masters. He recently received a Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area grant for his work organizing workshops and festivals to teach and promote the region’s distinctive style of blues.

“R.L.’s Boogie,” R.L. Boyce

R.L. Boyce’s version of “Poor Black Mattie” is available on his album Live From The Circle Bar. Versions by Kokomo Arnold and Sleepy John Estes are available from Document Records.

Jontavious Willis

Georgia’s Jontavious Willis plays the blues with a sense of history. Although he was born in 1996, his arrangements feature instruments like clarinet and mandolin, which haven’t been common instruments on blues recordings since before World War II. Rather than being a throwback, though, his music is an update on these traditional sounds. In addition to his original recordings and his YouTube videos of cover songs, he has also founded the Fall Line Blues Project, a series of videos which document the blues traditions of Georgia and Alabama.

“The World Is In A Tangle,” Jontavious Willis

Jontavious Willis’s cover of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is available on his YouTube channel. The original by Blind Willie Johnson is available from Document Records.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes

The subject of a previous article on the Document Records blog, 2021 Grammy nominee Jimmy “Duck” Holmes has gained international fame as the last of the Bentonia bluesmen. From his home base at the Blue Front Café, a juke joint founded by his parents in 1948, Holmes continues to perform in the style first recorded by Skip James almost 90 years ago. His status as a blues icon and culture bearer led to his being chosen to appear on a U.S. postage stamp representing the state of Mississippi.

“Two Women,” Jimmy “Duck” Holmes

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’s covers of  “Cypress Grove” and “Devil Got My Woman” are available on his album Cypress Grove. The originals by Skip James are available from Document Records.

Shemekia Copeland

Daughter of Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland and reigning queen of the Chicago blues, Shemekia Copeland has released nine albums and shows no signs of slowing down. Drawing inspiration from all forms of American roots music, including country, folk, and R&B, in addition to blues, her 2020 album Uncivil War features both Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Americana legend Jason Isbell on guitar.

“Wild, Wild Woman,” Shemekia Copeland

Willie Farmer

Mississippi auto mechanic Willie Farmer has loved the old-school blues of Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins since his childhood, and has played the blues since he was in his teens. Decades later, he co-founded the Grassroots Blues Festival in 2003. However, it was only recently, with the help of the Music Maker Blues Foundation, that he recorded his first two albums: I’m Coming Back Home on Austrian label Wolf Records, and The Man From The Hill on American label Big Legal Mess Records.

“I Am The Lightning,” Willie Farmer

Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton

Watts native Jerron Paxton has made a name for himself as an interpreter of musical history. Paxton’s repertoire is entirely taken from or inspired by the classic blues era of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as even older pre-blues material. His vintage sound and aesthetic, along with his ability to play multiple instruments from the blues and string band traditions, has earned him appearances in the PBS documentary The American Epic Sessions and the animated TV series Over The Garden Wall.

“South Central/Hesitation Blues,” Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton

Jerron Paxton’s version of “Candy Man” is available on the American Epic Sessions soundtrack. A live version by Reverend Gary Davis is available from Document Records.

Fantastic Negrito

Oakland’s Fantastic Negrito is a three-time Grammy winner in the Best Contemporary Blues category. After an earlier R&B career under his birth name, Fantastic Negrito came back in 2014 with a mission of making “Black roots music for everyone.” His music, while rooted in the blues, features elements of funk, hip-hop, and R&B, and often deals with the social issues facing the city of Oakland, America, and the world.

“I’m So Happy I Cry,” Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito’s version of “In The Pines” is available on his album The Last Days of Oakland. Three versions by Lead Belly, under different titles, are available from Document Records.

Marquise Knox

Since his teenage years, St. Louis’s Marquise Knox has explored the question, “Can A Young Man Play The Blues?” and has always found the answer is “yes”. With a sound reminiscent of the great St. Louis and Chicago bluesmen who mentored him, along with an intense drive to carve out a space for the younger generation of blues artists, Marquise Knox is an artist to watch.

“Can A Young Man Play The Blues,” Marquise Knox

Marquise Knox’s cover of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is available on his album Here I Am. An early version by Muddy Waters, called “I Be’s Troubled”, is available from Document Records.

Otis Taylor

Colorado’s Otis Taylor has been playing the blues for over fifty years. Once a labelmate of Bukka White and Fleetwood Mac on Blue Horizon Records, he took a twenty-year hiatus from the music industry before coming back with a new style he called “trance blues”. His music, which often draws inspiration from the troubled, violent history of the United States, is also notable for its reclamation of the banjo, a musical instrument with origins in West Africa.

“Twelve String Mile,” Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor’s cover of “Walk Right In” is available on his album Recapturing the Banjo. The original version by Cannon’s Jug Stompers is available from Document Records.

Mud Morganfield

The son of great Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters, Mud Morganfield worked as a truck driver until a recurring dream of his late father convinced him to begin playing music professionally. While he is proud to perform many of his father’s songs live in concert, as well as on his album For Pops: A Tribute To Muddy Waters, he is a brilliant singer and songwriter in his own right.

“Midnight Lover,” Mud Morganfield

Gary Clark Jr.

One of the higher-profile artists on this list, Texan guitarist Gary Clark Jr. has won Grammys in the blues, rock, and R&B categories. Clark caught the attention of the rock music establishment with his breakout record, The Bright Lights EP, and immediately drew comparisons to the blues-rock guitar gods of the classic rock era. However, Clark’s music isn’t bound by rock or blues conventions, and he incorporates funk, reggae, and hip-hop into a sound all his own.

“Bright Lights,” Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr.’s version of “Catfish Blues” is available on his album Live. Versions by Robert Petway, Skip James, Honeyboy Edwards, and Bobo Thomas are available from Document Records.

Ruthie Foster

Another Texan, the folk and blues singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster, rejected major label offers of mainstream pop stardom in favor of blazing her own trail. Her commitment to authenticity has served her well, leading to multiple Koko Taylor Award nominations and wins, and to her induction into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.

“Phenomenal Woman,” Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster’s version of “People Grinnin’ In Your Face” is available on her album The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster. A version by Son House is available from Document Records.

Chris Thomas King

Although many blues fans know him from his big-screen portrayals of Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Lowell Fulson, Chris Thomas King is a blues innovator and legend in his own right. Starting as a folk-blues traditionalist during his teenage years, and moving into a fusion of blues and hip-hop a decade later, King has taken the blues in every direction he can. King’s version of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, was many people’s introduction to country blues.

“Da Thrill Is Gone From Here,” Chris Thomas King

Chris Thomas King’s cover of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is available on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The original by Skip James is available from Document Records.

Sugaray Rayford

Sugaray Rayford is the West Coast’s king of soul blues. While he currently has an active solo recording career, he has previously performed in the Tony-nominated musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues and been a member of L.A. blues supergroup The Mannish Boys. He has also done studio work as a backing musician for other artists.

“Dark Night Of The Soul,” Sugaray Rayford

Sugaray Rayford’s cover of “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” is available on his album Blind Alley. The original by Blind Willie Johnson is available from Document Records.

  • Jude 1 year ago Reply

    I am so happy that you provided this list. While some of the names are my favorite artists, several were new to me. I can’t wait to listen to their entire musical catalogs.

    • Paloma Alcala 1 year ago Reply

      Thank you so much, Jude! We’re glad you enjoyed the article, and we hope you find some new favorites in the list!

  • Philly Rains 1 year ago Reply

    How can this list NOT include Anthony Gomes? Just because he’s Canadian doesn’t mean he isn’t a Blues phenom, and worthy of any Blues list today. Shame!

    • Paloma Alcala 1 year ago Reply

      Hi! This was a list of 21 current blues musicians. As such, we could only include a certain number, but we do encourage people to comment with their recommendations of other current blues musicians. Thank you for bringing Anthony Gomes to our attention, we’ll be sure to listen!

  • Linda 1 year ago Reply

    Please add Samantha Fish and, maybe ZZ Ward

    • Paloma Alcala 1 year ago Reply

      Thank you for the suggestions! We hope you enjoyed the article.

  • Jack 1 year ago Reply

    Selwyn Birchwood deserves to be included. The First time I saw him he reminded me of a young Robert Cray (who I saw when he was starting out). Check him out on Alligator records, his latest album is “Living in a burning house”. The band is tight too.

    • Paloma Alcala 1 year ago Reply

      Hi Jack! Thank you so much for the suggestion. I can definitely see the parallels between Selwyn Birchwood and Robert Cray!

  • Andy Kaknes 1 year ago Reply

    What a great list of artists. A few on here I was unware of. Thanks for listing. I’ve seen Little Freddie King & Marqui Knox play live before, and they both put on a stellar show. For my personal addition for those interested: Give a listen to Joe & Chris Beard, and also James Cotton’s guitar player and vocalist, Slam Allen, who is playing under his own name since James’ passing.

    • Paloma Alcala 1 year ago Reply

      Hi Andy,

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful additions! We’ll definitely be checking them out.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop