The 33rd Blues Music Awards take place Thursday, May 10th, at the Cook Convention Center. An annual event of the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, the BMAs will celebrate the year in blues with awards in 26 categories recognizing albums, songs, singers, and players from across the blues spectrum and with live performances from several nominees.
Among the leading nominees this year are Louisiana's Tab Benoit and Florida's Tedeschi Trucks Band. Both are up for Album of the Year (for Benoit's Medicine and Tedeschi Trucks' Revelator), with Tedeschi Trucks also vying for Band of the Year and the married partners splitting into Contemporary Female Artist (Susan Tedeschi) and Gibson Guitar (Derek Trucks) categories. And Benoit follows his Album of the Year nod with nominations for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Contemporary Blues Album, and Contemporary Male Artist.
Local or regional artists up for awards include the Scott Bomar-led Memphis soul band The Bo-Keys, who are nominated in two categories, for Band of the Year and Soul Blues Album of the Year for their Got To Get Back!. Additionally, longtime vocal stalwart Jackie Johnson, who released the solo album Memphis Jewel last year, is up for Soul Blues Female Artist, while Mississippi's Johnny Rawls is up in multiple categories — Soul Blues Album and Male Artist and Best Song overall for the title track — on the strength of his Memphis Still Got Soul album.
The Blues Music Awards begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10th. Individual tickets are $125. For more info, see blues.org.
But the BMAs are the centerpiece of a long weekend of blues-related events, including several concerts that are perhaps more user-friendly for non-industry fans. Among these:
Thursday, May 10th:
Noon — Beale Street note unveiling to honor late Chicago blues great Koko Taylor, at the Historic Daisy Theatre.
12:45 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Yellow Dog Records Showcase at B.B. King's. The Memphis-connected label will host a concert featuring Canadian roots guitarist and songwriter Colin Linden, Greenville, Mississippi, blues piano sure-shot Eden Brent (nominated for the Pinetop Perkins Award for best piano player), and eclectic acoustic marvel Mary Flower, who is up for multiple awards this year. Free.
Friday, May 11th:
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. — Memorial Tribute to Louisiana Red at Hard Rock Café. Guitarist and harmonica player Iverson "Louisiana Red" Minter had been a blues-scene fixture since the early '60s and died of a stroke this February at age 79. Among the many artists scheduled to be a part of the tribute are blues-scene heavyweights Bob Margolin and Anderson Funderburgh and Mid-South stalwarts such as Billy Gibson and Lightnin' Malcolm. $10 minimum donation.
7 p.m. — Four Shades of Blue concert at the New Daisy Theatre. Four prominent current blues artists team up for a very promising concert bill: Mississippi-born, Los Angeles-based bandleader Zac Harmon, a former winner of the International Blues Challenge; Louisiana-bred harmonica legend Lazy Lester; Chicago-based guitarist and emerging blues star Eddie Turner; and young, heavy blues-rocker Dennis Jones. $10.
10 p.m. — Beale Street Mess Around at the Beale Street Tap Room. With Victor Wainwright, Brandon Santini & His Band, J.T. Lauritsen, and others. $5.