While I found this to be a nearly impossible task and almost didn’t think I could narrow it down to 10 since I have spent a lifetime supporting live blues so I listed the first 10 songs that popped into my head that were favourites. About me…I have been photographing legendary blues artists for almost 25 years and as a result, have just released the 50 Women in the Blues book. My blues and soul photos have been published all over the world and are featured in an exhibition about Women in the Blues in the US. As a Blues DJ with a US-based radio show, I produced and recorded over 200 shows. I am now based in London after spending a lifetime immersed in the Chicago blues scene.

1 – Ruthie Foster – Phenomenal Women

Because I love Maya Angelou’s poetry of which this is from. Ruthie puts everything she has into performing this song and you can’t help but be moved when you see her perform it live. It gives me the strength to carry on in this thing called life. She usually ends her show with this song because what could follow.


2 – Carl Weathersby – Feels Like Rain

I like everything Carl Weathersby puts out and I hope I own all of his music. Seeing him live is such a memorable experience. He loves to interact with his audience. He puts so much emotion into singing his songs and blends it perfectly with his guitar playing. I have heard Buddy Guy and many others sing this John Hiatt song but I think Carl does it best.


3 – Chris Thomas King – Wanna Die with a Smile on My Face

This album Red Mud came out in the 90s and this song just always lifted my spirt. I like every song on Red Mud. I would find myself dancing around a room and feeling happy.

4 – Lurrie Bell – Blues in My Soul

When I think of a true bluesman out there, Lurrie Bell comes to mind first. Maybe it’s because he is from Chicago and so am I. He is the blues from his head down to his toes and you can feel it in every song.

5 – Otis Clay – Walk A Mile in my Shoes

He is a performer who I could never see perform live enough. He was a favourite at the incredibly cool Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland and performed often there. I like this song because too many people are quick to judge others without knowing what they are going thru and where they have been. My hope is that people in this world would not be so quick to judge others. There would certainly be more peace. Otis Clay was an incredible live performer and one who I will always miss.

6 – Luther Allison – Cherry Red Wine

It was said he did 3 or 4-hour shows and that is why he left this world at a young age in 1997. He was only 57. When he sings this song he becomes the song as he did so often in his performances. I look for that when I go to see musicians perform live.

7 – Lonnie Brooks – End of My Rope and Sweet Home Chicago

Okay, I sort of cheated here. I got two for Lonnie. I could just pick 10 songs from his recordings. End of My Rope is an emotional song that says don’t give up, I am here for you. It’s a song of hope. We all need to have faith and hope. As for Sweet Home Chicago, I have travelled the US and Europe and have heard a 100 or more bands sing Sweet Home Chicago but nobody did it better than Lonnie Brooks. A live version can be on Alligator Records with him performing at the Chicago Fest. He always ended his live shows with this song. He used to say he got tired of playing it but the audience demanded he performs it. It became his signature song.

8 – Mavis Staples – I’ll Take You There

I am so proud she is from my hometown of Chicago. She is my musical hero. I will never miss a show of hers if possible and will go out of my way to attend a festival she is performing at. She brings me to tears and to my knees when she sings. You can’t help but be drawn in when she performs on stage. She loves her audience and inviting them to participate in her music. At age 80 she is still touring the world as she feels she has a message of love, peace and unity to spread…a message she has been singing to the masses since the 1950’s when she was part of the Staple Singers.

9 – Koko Taylor – I’m A Woman

An artist who defined the blues for me. I saw her perform more than any other artist. She lived to perform and was happiest when on stage. She lived in Chicago most of her life and I was lucky enough to see her perform from the 1970s until her passing in 2009. Her music moves me every time I hear it. She didn’t take no crap from anyone and was respected by everyone. Strong as they come. Her music will let you know she is a Woman and don’t mess with her. I miss her so much.

10 – Uvee Hayes – Steal Away to the Hideaway

Uvee is from St. Louis. She is one of many talented artists in my recently released 50 Women in the Blues book. I saw her perform his song on stage at the Chicago Blues Fest with Otis Clay and the performance blew me away. They were set to do some recording together when Otis Clay passed away overnight at the young age of 74. Uvee has sung her whole life and has such an incredible voice. Look for more music coming from her in the future.

Jennifer Noble’s book 50 Women In The Blues is available on Amazon

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