BEAR FAMILY WINS “HISTORICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR” AT 2014 BLUES MUSIC AWARDS
Bear Family is the world’s greatest country reissue label, right? And the greatest rock ‘n’ roll reissue label, right? Well, now Bear Family stakes its claim to be the greatest blues/R&B reissue label, too!
On May 8 in Memphis’s Cook Convention Center, the Blues Foundation announced the winners of the 35th annual Blues Music Awards. Bear Family won for ‘The Sun Blues Box‘. Released in 2013, the lavishly packaged 10-CD set has been hailed by fans and critics as perhaps the best blues set ever, profiling Sam Phillips’ 1950s blues recordings by B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Sleepy John Estes, Jackie Brenston, Little Milton, James Cotton, Ike Turner, Dr. Ross, Walter Horton, Earl Hooker, Junior Parker, Joe Hill Louis, Rufus Thomas, and many others. The accompanying 184-page LP-sized book includes newly researched essays and many previously unseen photos as well as period correspondence. ‘The Sun Blues Box’ finally does justice to one of the truly great blues legacies.
On hand to accept the award were Bear Family president, Richard Weize, and two of the set’s producers, Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott. Fellow producer Hank Davis was unable to attend. Fittingly, James Cotton—who, alongside B.B. King, is one of the very, very few artists from the Sun blues years still performing—did a short set that was one of the night’s highlights. Although unable to sing because of throat cancer, Cotton directed his small group, played harmonica until his breath gave out, and looked as passionate and engaged as he surely was in the Sun studio almost sixty years earlier to the day when he recorded the classic Cotton Crop Blues. Former Capricorn Records star Elvin Bishop backed him on guitar.
In addition to the 2014 Blues Music Award for ‘The Sun Blues Box’, Bear Family has also received awards at the 2013 Blues Music Awards in Memphis for ‘Plug It In! Turn It Up! – Electric Blues – The Definite Collection 1939 – 2005’, a cross-label history of urban blues, compiled and produced by Chicago blues historian, Bill Dahl. Martin Hawkins, coproducer of the The Sun Blues Box, was in Memphis at work on another definitive blues project, and Bear Family has even more blues, R&B, and soul reissues planned.