Blues Christmas Gift Guide

Gifts for the Blues Fan or Musician on Your List

The holidays are upon us, and your humble Blues Guide is more than happy to provide his recommendations to fulfill your gift-buying needs. Whether you're looking for blues-related goodies for yourself (in which case, print out this list and tack it up somewhere obvious to the person buying your gifts), or you need ideas to buy for the blues music fan on your list, to follow is the Reverend's recommended blues gifts for 2010.

1
Blues Images 2011 Calendar

Blues Images 2011 Calendar
Blues Images 2011 Calendar. Photo courtesy Blues Images

It's not too late to pick up a Blues Images 2011 calendar for your wall, or the wall of a loved one! This blues datebook features a different bit of historic, vintage advertising artwork on the page of each month, as well as important dates like artist's birthdays. The calendar also includes an eighteen-track CD that offers up remastered blues tunes from the 1920s by folks like Charley Patton, Blind Blake, and Skip James, among others.

2
Blues Revue Magazine Subscription

Blues Revue magazine
Blues Revue magazine. Photo courtesy Blues Revue magazine

There are just a couple of blues music print publications available for fans to expand their knowledge and enjoyment of the music (beyond About.com Blues, of course). Although they all have their charms, I personally prefer the long-running Blues Revue for my ink and paper fix. Blues Revue provides great blues and roots music coverage, in-depth artist interviews, even song notation for those who want to play the blues themselves. Plus, subscribers receive several sampler CDs each year of new music. Full disclosure: the Reverend is a contributor to Blues Revue, but I've also been a subscriber for years.

3
Hohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica

Hohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica
Hohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica. Photo courtesy Price Grabber

For the fledgling harp-blaster on your holiday gift list, this seven-pack of Hohner's Piedmont Blues harmonicas is a sweet deal. You get harps in the keys of G, A, Bb, C, D, E, and F (lowest to highest), with brass reeds, aluminum plates, and a plush-lined nylon carrying case. The recipient of this gift can learn to play in the style of Piedmont blues legend Sonny Terry or, with the included Bb harmonica, play cross-harp in the key of F like Chicago blues giant Little Walter.

4
Jimi Hendrix – 'West Coast Seattle Boy' box set

Jimi Hendrix's West Coast Seattle Boy
Jimi Hendrix's West Coast Seattle Boy. Photo courtesy Legacy Recordings

Before you dismiss this one as just another warmed-over, rehashed look back at the blues-rock guitar greats' career, West Coast Seattle Boy is much more than the last scrapings from the Jimi Hendrix archive. This five-disc anthology includes four CDs pulling rare tracks, alternate takes, and unreleased recordings from across Jimi's entire career while the accompanying DVD features the Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child biographical documentary film. Worth the cost just for the disc one opening Isley Brothers cut "Testify" that features some nasty Hendrix six-string noodling.

5
Junior Wells & the Aces – 'Live In Boston 1966' CD

Junior Wells & the Aces's Live In Boston 1966
Junior Wells & the Aces's Live In Boston 1966. Photo courtesy Delmark Records

An unreleased gem of a live performance, Live In Boston 1966 provides the blues fan with a vintage recording of the legendary Junior Wells backed by a top-notch R&B outfit in the Aces, both the artist and the band kicking out the jams with vitality and energy. Wells' between-song conversations with the audience provide a welcome intimacy, and display the harpslinger's charismatic personality. Whether you're a long-time fan or a newcomer, this is what the blues is all about. Highly recommended!

6
Mary Lou Sullivan – 'Raisin' Cain' book

Mary Lou Sullivan's Raisin' Cain
Mary Lou Sullivan's Raisin' Cain. Photo courtesy Backbeat Books

Johnny Winter is one of the most respected and beloved of blues-rock guitarists, and the many ups-and-downs of his career make for fascinating reading. Writer Mary Lou Sullivan digs deep into her subject's life much like great music biographers as Peter Guralnick or Robert Gordon, interviewing everybody from Winter and his equally famous brother Edgar to former bandmates, managers, producers, fellow blues musicians, and many others. As a result, Sullivan has delivered the ultimate biography of the enigmatic bluesman.

7
R. Crumb's 'Heroes of the Blues, Jazz & Country' book/CD set

R. Crumb's Heroes of the Blues, Jazz & Country
R. Crumb's Heroes of the Blues, Jazz & Country. Photo courtesy Price Grabber

This beautiful 240-page hardback book collects all of the illustrations from Robert Crumb's acclaimed "Heroes of the Blues," "Early Jazz Greats" and "Pioneers of Country Music" trading card sets between two covers. A labor of love for the infamous underground cartoonist and collector of antique music, Crumb's heartfelt portraits of his favorite blues, jazz, and country/hillbilly musicians are accompanied by text from writers Stephen Calt and David Jasen. The book includes a CD of "old time" music hand-picked by Crumb himself. 

8
Steve Cushing – 'Blues Before Sunrise' book

Steve Cushing's Blues Before Sunrise
Steve Cushing's Blues Before Sunrise. Photo courtesy University of Illinois Press

Old-school blues fans will love this collection of a dozen interviews with various artists conducted by radio host Steve Cushing for his Blues Before Sunrise radio program. Cushing celebrates the lesser-known talents that provide blues music with its incredible diversity and history, and the book features lively conversations with folks like Yank Ranchell, Alberta Hunter, John Brim, Tommy Brown, and many others.

9
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – 'Couldn't Stand The Weather' CD

Stevie Ray Vaughan's Couldn't Stand The Weather
Stevie Ray Vaughan's Couldn't Stand The Weather. Photo courtesy Legacy Recordings

 The sophomore album by late blues-rock guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan and his Double Trouble band was reissued during 2010, given the deluxe treatment it's long deserved. The Legacy Edition of Couldn't Stand The Weather is the ultimate fan and collectors' version of this important and influential release, offering up 31 songs, including previously unreleased studio tracks and the entire twelve-song live set from a Montreal 1984 performance. What more could the true believer ask for in a CD reissue?

10
'The Complete History of Guitar World' book

The Complete History of Guitar World
The Complete History of Guitar World. Photo courtesy Backbeat Books

Issue #1 of Guitar World magazine in July 1980 featured Johnny Winter on its cover; in the 30 years since, the bible of six-string enthusiasts has continued to provide cutting-edge coverage of blues, rock, heavy metal, and other styles of guitar-oriented music with an enthusiasm and insight missing from most commercial music magazines. The Complete History of Guitar World collects the highlights from three-decades of music coverage by the magazine, including interviews with folks like Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, among others. This lavish trade paperback doesn't feature any song transcriptions, but there are plenty of cool photos and as diverse coverage of the art of guitar as you'll find anywhere.