Top 20 Albums of 2020

2020 has been a challenging year but one filled with exciting new releases in blues rock. 2020 is also a milestone with it being the 10th year of Blues Rock Review’s annual Top 20 list. A record number of fans cast their vote along with our staff in an ultra-competitive year. The list was compiled with the fans counting for 50% of the vote and the staff of Blues Rock Review counting for the other 50%.

Here are Blues Rock Review’s Top 20 Albums of 2020.


20. Jeremiah Johnson: Heavens To Betsy

“A tasty dish of an album. It’s not complicated and on paper it might seem too simple, but it’s a hard recipe to replicate. A great voice, strong songs, and a talented horn section make for a blues album that’s high-energy fun. And it’s not something every artist can do as well as Johnson has done on Heavens to Betsy.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


19. Tinsley Ellis: Ice Cream In Hell 

“If you’re a blues rock fan and aren’t familiar with Ellis’ work, this is a great place to check in. Ice Cream in Hell is blues rock from a master at the height of his power, vocally and instrumentally. Ellis showcases monster tone, vibrato that feels like an earthquake, and all-around tasteful playing. He is always the right answer.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


 18. Savoy Brown: Ain’t Done Yet

“The album has the relaxed energy of a band that knows what to do and isn’t trying to prove anything. Simmonds is still a strong performer and songwriter. Savoy Brown has been around for so long because Simmonds understands his audience, but also the blues. People return for quality.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


17. Alastair Greene: The New World Blues

The New World Blues digs deeper into Greene’s repertoire, which uncoincidentally digs deeper into the blues aspects of his style. With Tab Benoit’s help, the taut trio rely on their music and their artistry to create a set that offers an exceptionally transparent group of tracks, devoid of the usual studio album accoutrements.” – Willie Witten

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


16. Artur Menezes: Fading Away

Fading Away is the album that puts Artur’s stamp on blues rock music. It’s a mature and balanced album, always keeping the guitars in the spotlight, something he did in previous albums, too, but this time he explored new resources and approaches, as well as guitar tones, which are extremely awesome.” – Marcel Innocentini

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


15. Shemekia Copeland: Uncivil War

“Shemekia Copeland continues to explore Americana through a strong blues influence on Uncivil War, a charmingly rootsy and rocking album of tasty guitar, bold lyrics, and, of course, Copeland’s powerhouse voice, which drives the entire album.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


14. Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown: Pressure

Pressure is the fourth full-length album by Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, and since its release on October 16th, has been acclaimed on social media as the greatest album of the band. And I think they are quite right. Pressure is an album that lifts blues rock in its essence, with melodic vocals, powerful guitar riffs, firm drum beats, and cohesive bass lines.” – Marcel Innocentini

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


13. Dion: Blues With Friends

“A collaboration with a ton of blues and blues rock stars. Bruce Springsteen plays guitar behind Dion and Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, on “Hymn to Him,” from Dion’s 1987 gospel album. He’s joined on other tracks by Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Samantha Fish, and Billy Gibbons. It’s an eclectic group but the parade of different guests keeps the album interesting. The underlying album concept is a bit of a gimmick, but Dion makes it a high-quality, enjoyable one.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


12. Marcus King: El Dorado

El Dorado is straight-forward soul, although there are some rock moments sprinkled throughout the record (“Turn It Up” rocks especially hard), but the pleasure of the album is that while King and Auerbach are fairly rooted in the album’s chosen genre, there are enough pleasant surprises, like strings and up-front guitars, to make the album feel new and contemporary. This is a Marcus King album but it’s very much a collaboration, with Auerbach and King bringing out the best in each other.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


11. Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

“It’s a magnificent album that really deserves all the nominations. His music still remains unique, without brands, or, in his words… “the show can be described as ‘church without the religion’ and crosses genre boundaries with no passport needed.” – Marcel Innocentini

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


10. Robert Jon and the Wreck: Last Light On The Highway

“Robert Jon and the Wreck delivers its best album to date with Last Light on the Highway. Considering the strength of the band’s catalog that’s saying something. Last Light on the Highway is filled with memorable hooks and will be in the conversation for year end awards. It’s a highly recommended album from start to finish.” – Pete Francis

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


9. When Rivers Meet: We Fly Free

We Fly Free is the debut album released in November of this year by a British husband and wife guitar slinging duo that will blow your socks off. Aaron and Grace Bond front a quartet with Grace playing slide mandolin ala Hendrix style as Aaron drones like Duane Eddy on his guitar. Grace’s dark husky voice soars between driving guitar riffs and slide mandolin solo’s on the twelve tracks.” – Bob Gersztyn

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


8. Larkin Poe: Self Made Man

“You hear something new and cool every time you play Self Made Man. It’s truly impressive how Larkin Poe achieves this while also creating an album that sounds natural. They’re not throwing tricks and licks at the listener; they’re building tricks and licks into sturdy, captivating songs. Larkin Poe make it sound easy as easy as bringing your hands together, but really it’s as hard as clapping with one hand.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


7. King King: Maverick

“From start to finish, Maverick is blues rock at its best. One thing that separates Alan Nimmo and King King from many blues rock acts is Nimmo’s ability to write hooks. Nimmo is a hook machine writing hook after hook. He hits the guitar solo when needed but doesn’t make it overpower or take over the song. This is evident throughout the songwriting on Maverick. The album is chock-full of catchy and memorable tunes that stand up with King King’s best work.” – Pete Francis

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


6. Mike Zito: Quarantine Blues

“The quick-fire nature of the album results in a different Zito energy that rocks with an uncharacteristic, and straight-up fun, abandon. The thing that grabs you about Quarantine Blues is its immediacy. It doesn’t feel unfinished, but it’s not particularly polished. It has a wonderful live feeling. Quarantine Blues is great company and worth paying for.” – Steven Ovadia

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


5. Anthony Gomes: Containment Blues

Containment Blues is another winner from Anthony Gomes with no weak tracks in the bunch. While some artists are delaying releasing albums during the pandemic, Gomes was able to turn the situation into a positive as it inspired some truly great songs. Gomes challenged himself with Containment Blues and it pays off as one of the better albums of 2020.” – Pete Francis

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


4. Philip Sayce: Spirit Rising

“Sayce has overcome many challenges and obstacles in recent years, which has inspired Spirit Rising. Well worth the wait, Spirit Rising is right up there with Sayce’s best work featuring blistering guitar and great songs from start to finish.” – Pete Francis

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


3. Walter Trout: Ordinary Madness

The album is consistently great cover to cover. For an album that broaches some deeply personal subjects, Ordinary Madness succeeds in being universally relatable, not to mention extremely enjoyable. It is one of Trout’s best entries in his extensive catalog.” – Willie Witten

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


2. The Allman Betts Band: Bless Your Heart

“On Bless Your Heart, The Allman Betts Band continues to do what they do best, deliver good ole’ fashioned blues-tinged southern rock. The 13 tracks take the listener on a ride and are filled with an abundance of textures.” – Pete Francis

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)


1. Joe Bonamassa: Royal Tea

From the album’s title to the choice of Abbey Road Studios as the recording locale, Joe Bonamassa makes every effort to channel the aura of the great British Blues explosion on his latest LP, Royal Tea. When set against basic nostalgia, original songs and artistic nuance usually win the day as they do here. The willingness to reconceive this era rather than just revisit it makes Royal Tea a great album and an intriguing listen.” – Willie Witten

(Buy: Amazon | Amazon UK)

Previous Top 20 Lists: 2019, 2018201720162015, 201420132012, 2011
*Editor’s note: Live albums and EPs are not included in the Top 20*

18 thoughts on “Top 20 Albums of 2020

  • December 9, 2020 at 11:20 am
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    So damn happy for Joe Bonamassa earring his top award, he has forged blues forward more than any other artist. Keeping the blues alive, excelling in his live concerts, this man is a blues legend of our current time frame in music. Creative, awe inspiring fret work, excellence in all he does. This album just shouts out to be listened to over and over, yet doesn’t get old. I’ve followed Joe for all his career. None better in my honest opinion, at 67 , he’s got me playing guitar again, and enjoying the blues every day…thank you for honoring him with #1…well deserved, and earned thru many years of guitar mastery.

    Reply
    • December 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm
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      I’m thrilled for Joe. He did it “HIS WAY” and all doubted him and he ROCKS. You seldom hear him on mainstream radio – and they missed a LOT and listeners should have had access to Joe for years.
      BRAVO Joe. Congratulations.

      Reply
  • December 9, 2020 at 12:45 pm
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    Another great year in blues rock despite of the trying conditions that 2020 brought us. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to 9 of these albums on the list and all 9 were winners. The top 2 no doubt had some of the best musicianship across any genre. Personally, I voted for Bless Your Heart, but I’m really loving Royal Tea more and more. Both of these albums really showed the blues influence on rock and it was interesting we had a southern rock and a retro early 70’s Brit rock/blues. I also enjoyed Eric Steckel’s Grandview Drive very much and constantly played it alongside Phillip Sayce’s and Tinsey Ellis’s works (all guitar master pieces). Thanks again to the BRR staff for this site and the fans keeping blues rock relevant.

    Reply
  • December 9, 2020 at 7:29 pm
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    A great choice for top album of 2020! JB’s Royal Tea has been tops in my playlist since it was released and may be his best work since (in my opinion) Driving Towards the Daylight.
    Must say though, I was disappointed that Eric Steckel’s Grandview Drive did not make the top 20 as it was my vote for #1 🙁
    Loving your magazine and I very much look forward to the BRR top 20 every year as it has literally been a source for many new artists I have adopted 🙂

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 6:26 am
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    So fantastic to see When Rivers Meet in the Top 10 with their very first album. With their unique and distinctive sound, the chemistry between Grace and Aaron these guys are going to be really big, and will be very well deserved

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  • December 10, 2020 at 7:52 am
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    All in all a very good Ranking. Its difficult to choose among a flood of excellent music. For me overrated King King, Maverick. By far the worst of their cds.
    Where is richie kotzen 50/50, Henrik Freischlader: missing pieces, Ben granfelt: true colours, muddy manninen: River flows, Tony Spinner: Love is the answer, Voodoo room: tension City Blues and Dennis Jones: soft hard and loud!
    Greetings from Switzerland.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 10:14 am
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    You dont just listen to Joe Bonamassa you experience Joe’s music.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 1:40 pm
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    Lots of great music here. Can’t argue with Joe at #1. Gotta say though, I’m disappointed to see Kirk Fletcher’s My Blues Pathway absent from the list. Incredible blues album from one of the best in the biz.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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    Allman Betts Band. Awesome First 2 Albums

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 1:58 pm
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    Good to see when rivers Meet gaining the success they richly deserve.Unusually for a debut album there are no weak tracks, no matter how many times you play it you never want to skip a track. Grace and Aaron Bond are going to be huge.

    Reply
  • December 10, 2020 at 10:20 pm
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    Congratulations Joe Bonamassa
    And contributing British artists
    Royal Tea offers incredible music
    and songs, first class.
    His guitar playing speaks to you

    Reply
  • December 11, 2020 at 1:06 pm
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    from Italy
    For the first three places is my ranking !
    I am 70 years old and I have loved this music since I was a boy !
    Blues and rock will never die !

    Reply
  • December 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm
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    Joe Bonamassa again, oh s..t.
    He’s so overrated.

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  • December 19, 2020 at 4:58 am
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    Will check some of the albums of the list. One comment though. Since you have analytical reviews, possibly for all these albums, you should have a link on each one directing to the full review.

    Reply
  • January 2, 2021 at 2:50 pm
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    Joe B again…went to see at the Beacon Theater…on his tour…self indulgent…left before the encore…check out Alias Smith & Jones from NYC…new album is the real rock’ blues…

    Reply
  • January 4, 2021 at 11:52 am
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    My number one is Carmen Gomes Inc. “Up Jumped The Devil, Discovering the Music of Robert Johnson”.
    Superbly well recorded and as one of the reviews said; “What a trip. Finally a band that dares to make a concept album.
    I am a big Robert Johnson fan and have all the covers of his songs made from the likes of Elmore James and Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones and what have you, but Carmen Gomes Inc takes first place in my top 10, why? They have made the songs their own. In no way do they try to emulate Robert Johnson, instead they seem to have looked at each song and explored the song itself, so not Robert Johnson the artist but Robert Johnson the composer. So refreshing.”

    Reply
  • January 12, 2021 at 2:53 pm
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    Ana Popovic’s live album?

    Reply

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