Since its inception in 2000, there’s been a metamorphosis of the budding NorthernBlues label into a force to be reckoned with in the blues world. Every couple of years, the label’s been putting out a retrospective heralding its recent releases, and, in this instance, it’s The Future Of The Blue, Volume 3, featuring 13 evocative tracks from 13 releases issued between 2007-2009, plus two bonus ones by Watermelon Slim and Cox and Bhalit.
Those who appreciate artists who dare to be different are in for a real treat, witness such out-of-the-box artists like Zac Harmon, Carlos del Junco and those Blues/East Indian hybrid masters Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt. Each of the aforementioned has one song from their most recent release featured, including "Breathless Girl" from harmonicist/vocalist Paul Reddick. Besides Reddick, Northernblues is also home to significant other Canadian talent (others here include Doug Cox and Salil Bhalit, J.W. Jones, Carlos del Junco and the Twisters).
"Make A Better World" is from Cox and Bhalit’s Slide to Freedom Vol. 1 and it’s a delicate, yet exotic intermingling of diverse cultures that yields a sublime harmony through the glorious interplay of the human voice and the esoteric strains of the sitar, yet at its core, it’s still blues. Zac Harmon is the most important recent addition to the label and he’s showcased on "Hattie Mae," on which he’s backed up by harp whiz Jimmy Z. It's hard-core Chicago-style blues that hits home hard and convincingly.
Taking care of the lion’s share of award-gathering for this much-honored label is Watermelon Slim. His importance is stressed by having three selections. His last CD No Paid Holidays is represented by "Blues For Howard," plus there’s an unreleased track "Blue Freightliner," while "Dumpster Blues" is an audio track off Slim’s upcoming DVD Live At The Ground Zero Blues Club. In the words of late legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, Slim is: "a one-of-a-kind pickin’ ‘n’ singin’ Okie dynamo." Truer words were never uttered.
Those who dig the West Coast stylings of Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, and Charlie Baty are sure to sure to enjoy the cool stinging guitar work of J.W. Jones, who is Northernblues first signee and has five albums to date. He’s featured on "Tickets" off his recent Blueslisted CD. For more danceable grooves, check out "Going Going Gone" which features impeccable harmonica and guitar lines from the Twisters. Tough and gruff soulful vocals are laid down on "Chesterfied Country Jail" from Mason Carey off his Sofa King Badass CD. And there’s a "Phunkfest" by New Orleans veteran Mem Shannon and that blazing guitar of his cuts through all that horn-fueled funk like a knife through butter.
All in all, it covers a huge amount of blues-related territory. This fairly recent retrospective serves as a very reliable guide map to the full gamut of cutting-edge 21st century blues offered on the Northernblues label. It’s also a very representative and intriguing introduction to the artists that embellish the Northernblues label’s thriving catalogue. It’s a testament to the eclecticism of the label and that means there’s something for everyone to sink their teeth into.