Various Artists

Future of the Blues, Vol. 2

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Future of the Blues, Vol. 2 is basically a sampler CD of Canada's Northernblues label, which by the time of this 2005 release, was rising to prominence as one of the more active and independent blues-oriented record companies. The 14 principal tracks (all of them by different artists) were taken from previously issued albums; the 15th track, John & the Sisters' "Burning at the Feet of the Lord," serves as a previously unreleased "bonus track." It's not likely to be looked upon as an important or pivotal release in the history of early 21st century blues, but it does at least testify to the label's variety of approaches within the blues idiom, as well as its willingness to go beyond conventional blues forms. There's acoustic-rooted blues borrowing from the singer/songwriter form (David Jacobs-Strain); swampy blues-funk (Dan Treanor and Frankie Lee); gutbucket torch blues (Janiva Magness); boogie-woogie piano and Jimi Hendrix-like blues-rock (by John & the Sisters, on their two different cuts); a sly jazz blues instrumental with hints of ragtime and cabaret (James Cohen); and blues as a soft-shoe shuffle (Brian Blain). Perhaps the best piece is Kevin Breit and Harry Manx's instrumental "No Particular Place to Be/Itchy Knees and Elbows," with its train-rolling rhythm and witty, almost quizzical riffs.

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