It’s hard to believe we are heading into the Independence Day weekend already. Wasn’t Memorial Day just about two weeks ago? Hmmm…guess not. That being said, this is a huge cookout weekend and I..cannot…wait! Steaks, wings, burgers, ribs, corn, summer squash, pineapple & peaches—it all tastes best when grilled.

The forecast is supposed to be hot and mostly clear in the DC area, so I fully intend to take advantage of that and be outside. Music is a huge part of the outdoor experience for me. So as we sip on some cold beverages while the food cooks I will have some tunes playing.

Anyone who has read this blog before knows I am not exactly a pop music fan, leaning more to the blues and a grittier blues/rock sound, so this list reflects that. Check out the links and I hope you enjoy! Let me know your feedback or send along some song suggestions for me to explore. Have a safe weekend!

I’ve included links to the artists’ websites should you want more info. on albums and tours.

Victor Wainwright and the Wildroots, “Boom Town”

One of my husband’s favorite performers. We got to witness firsthand the talent of Wainwright and what he does on keys a few years ago in Memphis. Wainwright is such a compelling performer and the Wildroots’ latest EP, Boom Town, highlights the entire band’s superb skills. This song has been getting airplay on SiriusXM and I love it. Wainwright and the band won big this year at the Blues Music Awards (BMAs), too: Best Band and BB King Entertainer of the Year.

Danielle Nicole, “Wolf Den”

This is the title track from the 2015-released album by the same name (last summer I selected another song from this same album; she’s that good). Nicole’s soulful voice shines on this and I love the bass riff, which isn’t surprising: She’s the bassist. This album is her first full-length solo effort after breaking from her siblings in Trampled Under Foot, and it’s garnering critical acclaim…for good reason.

Sugaray Rayford, “I’m Dangerous”

There’s nothing like an old-school, robust voice, and it’s apparent when it’s inspired by gospel. This man FEELS the music. I wasn’t really aware of Rayford until earlier this year; I took notice when he was nominated for several categories at this year’s BMAs, including the very prestigious BB King Entertainer of the Year. Dug a little deeper and realized I loved his energy, too. He’s in Europe most of the summer, but I’ll keep an eye on his schedule.

Karen Lovely, “Frank the Spank”

I’ve been a fan of Lovely for many years (2008’s Lucky Girl and 2010’s Still the Rain are some of my go-to discs). This track is from her latest album, Ten Miles of Bad Road, which was released in Oct. 2015. It’s a fun shuffle-type of drinking song and the harp is spot-on—I recently discovered that it’s Kim Wilson, from the Fabulous Thunderbirds! Lovely’s voice is full of expression and she has a spitfire personality that makes seeing her perform a treat.

2 Man Wrecking Crew, “My Sweetheart”

Comprised of Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm, this dynamic duo was instrumental in bringing attention to a modern take of the hypnotic Mississippi hill country blues. Several years ago I caught these guys perform…several times, actually. The self-titled album was award-winning and amazing, and I was hooked on their sound. The spirit and drive of Cedric’s grandfather—RL Burnside—is definitely evident in them, as are many other music legends from that region. They have both since moved on to their own projects and tours, but this entire album is one I listen to time and time again.

Chris Stapleton, “Tennessee Whiskey”

Yes, I know this is country. And while this song is a cover originally recorded by the legendary George Jones, Stapleton’s version was released last year and his career has skyrocketed…along with my interest in his work. Initially a powerhouse songwriter for others (Kenny Chesney, Adele and Darius Rucker, to name a few), his voice is phenomenal. Stapleton’s runs rival anything I’ve heard in R&B. “Tennessee Whiskey” is perfect for a hot, lazy summer evening. I’ll have a George Dickel over ice with a few splashes of ginger ale, please.

Howlin’ Wolf, “Smokestack Lightnin’”

Love me some Wolf, and this one showcases veteran bandmate Hubert Sumlin’s signature and identifiable guitar riff. Something I find so impressive about Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett (besides his huge stature and that booming voice) is how dedicated he was as an individual. Dedicated to his wife and family, dedicated to music and performing, dedicated to running his business properly (one of the very few blues musicians in his day to offer his band health insurance) and dedicated to education: Essentially an illiterate adult, Wolf returned to school in his 40s and not only earned a GED, but completed business courses that guided him in his career. While he’s been gone since 1976, his music is still relevant to me today.

Joe Bonamassa, “Dust Bowl”

Bonamassa became somewhat of a guitar prodigy before he was a teenager. Hell, he opened for B.B. King when he was 12! Now almost 40, he released his 12th album this year, Blues of Desperation. “Drive” is getting airplay on SiriusXM, and it’s a cool tune. But I’ve been gravitating to his older stuff lately, like this track and almost everything on the You & Me album. Bonamassa has become more of a “brand” than many other musicians in the blues (he has a bobble head…?), but he’s got chops and I am always interested to hear what he’s doing next.