Bongo Boy Records is a name synonymous with bringing new music to its ever-growing army of fans and followers, whether via TV shows, compilation albums or just by acting as a champion for the great and the good, the rising stars and the established acts alike. The Backroom Blues series of compilations is the place to connect with them if you are a fan of all things blues. Not just in its traditional forms but souled-out, rocked-up, old-school, contemporary and everything in between.

Things kick off with a reminder that no matter where rock’n’roll has travelled across the musical landscape, it is music built on blues progressions and guitar grooves. The NEW Bardots, a name familiar to anyone in the Bongo Boy gang, give us On Our Own, a rip-roaring and riotous slice of bluesy rock. They also have a second inclusion in Corporate Businessman, a song that goes even further to prove the close connection between the two genres.

Now I’m Alive, by Gypsy Carns, runs on more traditional lines, the swagger and sway, the attitude and energy merely pushed slightly towards the rock way of doing things, resulting in the best of both worlds, a song which captures the passion and prowess of the blues player and the energy and edge of the rock world.

E.G. Holmes leans even further into the earliest traditions of the genre with Busted, featuring David Vanden Enden, but again adds the poise and polish required to open up the genre to a much wider audience. His second offering, Mysterious, this time graced by the talent and tones of Karl Knutson’s voice, takes some soulful sonics, breezy brass, heavenly harmonies and urgent vocal deliveries to link the worlds of soul and old-school R&B with their bluesy travelling companions.

Bible Belt Blues ooze pure, understated and authentic blues, as the name might suggest and take on the classic House of the Rising Sun, a song brought to widespread attention by The Animals but a composition which has possibly gone through hundreds of years of evolution to get to the modern audience. It is the perfect choice for their spacious and heartfelt approach and a gentle reminder that blues standards, as well as folk, jazz and other rootsy styles, don’t have a definitive form, making them ripe for personalisation and further exploration.

They also give us If You Only Knew, a song that seems to blend the blues form with a strange and beguiling beat and percussion, emphasising even further that blues isn’t really a genre with a fixed sound but perhaps more an attitude, an expression or even a lifestyle, put to music.

Boys’N’ Barry mixes cool jazz vibes, muted trumpet and gorgeous soul vocals into Think What Might Have Been, a song that takes us back to the heyday of the soul diva and the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday, and Tiki Cowboys’ Crickets is a song full of stomp and swagger, leaning into some music hall traditions and rowdy, sing-along bar tunes.

Things wrap up with Grit’s Guitar and Missing You and perhaps the most bluesy sound of the whole album, especially if you are a fan of the more modern electric musical machinations. It bows out with an array of drifting notes and extended soloing, floating guitar lines and a perfect celebration of the modern blues guitar, which itself echoes with all the hardship and heartache, pain and passion of a hundred years or more of the blues sound.

Blues fans will love this curated compilation, but more than that, with its range of sounds and styles, the album acts as a perfect showcase of just how broad the genre is. If you can’t find something to love here…well, there might be something wrong with your ears—nothing personal, just something that you might want to consider.

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