10 young bluesbreakers who are making the Blues fun again
These hotshot players are lighting up the blues for a new generation.
Jackie Venson. Image: Gary Miller / Getty Images
These days, one might not think of blues music as something that incites the masses, and in truth it’s been many decades since the artform captured the airwaves in any meaningful way. And yet it still remains the source of much of the music that has come after it in the last 100 years, and as such continues to entrance and enrapture new players all the time. But how do you find the ones that are carrying the torch and maybe even look set to take the genre in new and interesting directions?
Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. What follows are ten young bluesbreakers who are making the blues fun again. Some you’ve perhaps heard of, others you might be learning about for the first time. Regardless, it’s plain to see that the blues, as a genre, is being carried forward in capable hands.
10. Asher Belsky
Listen to: Girlfriends
With roots leading back to his hometown of San Francisco, 18-year-old Gibson SG-wielding phenom Asher Belsky was all but predestined to make musical noise. To that end, the young six-string champion has made good on his initial promise, having shared the stage with Marcus King at the Crossroads Festival when he was just 14. And in 2021, Belsky released his debut EP, I Love You, No I Don’t, further cementing his status as the blues “next big thing.”
9. Austin Mo
Listen to: The River
California native Austin Mo is a rare breed. Having first picked up the guitar at 12, Mo elected to forgo lessons, moving to teach himself guitar over the next several years to marvelous results. Ten years later, Mo has begun to ingratiate himself amongst blues circles, imprinting his Gibson Flying V-inspired licks on the psyches of unsuspecting listeners. Mo has been inducted into the Brotherhood of Guitar and has seen his star rise after standout performances at Seattle’s Gunslingers Contest and Wisconsin’s Wilson Center Guitar Festival. Now 22, Mo front’s trio, The Austin Mo Xperience, is signed to Tesla guitarists Frank Hannon’s label with an eye toward releasing his debut full-length soon.
8. Ayla Tesler-Mabe
Listen to: Since I’ve Been Loving You
She’s been known to sling all sorts of guitars ranging from Gibson Les Paul’s to Fender Strats, with a few semi-hollowbody jobs mixed in for good measure. Regardless of which axe she chooses, Ayla Tesler-Mabe, a 21-year-old Canadian blues sensation, wows audiences wherever she goes. Her rise to fame began with stout covers of Led Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Living You and Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, with the former being viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook alone. With a degree from the Berklee College of Music in her back pocket and chops for days, it’s plain to see that no matter where Tesler-Mobe’s guitar takes her next, it will be worth listening to.
7. Anthony Cullins
Listen to: Whirlwind
Having already shared the stage with the likes of Frank Hannon, Greg Douglass, Derek St. Holmes, and more, it’s incredible to find that the San Diego-born Anthony Cullins, aka “The Fallbrook Kid,” is only 15 years of age. What’s more incredible is that Cullins – a player steadily making a name for himself on the Latin blues scene – seems intent on branching out, covering funk, R&B, rock, and soul, too. With weighty comparisons to the likes of Joe Bonamassa and Johnny Lang and in possession of a seething vibrato and a vocabulary akin to a player twice his age, it seems that Cullins isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
6. Quinn Sullivan
Listen to: How Many Tears
Considering he’s only 23 years old, one has to wonder how New Bedford, MA, bluesbreaker Quinn Sullivan has already managed to release four full-length records. Oh, and by the way, he’s performed with the likes of Buddy Guy and B.B. King, too. We suppose this is all par for the course for Sullivan, a guitarist who unleashed his debut, Cyclone, at 12 and wowed audiences at the Crossroads Festival at 14. Indeed, few have done the legendary Fender Strat so proud so early. Still, for Sullivan, blazing new trails on the backside of some admittedly incredible accomplishments is just the tip of his proverbial musical iceberg.
5. Cecil Alexander
Listen to: Central Park West
Yet another Berklee alum, twenty-something-year-old Michigan native Cecil Alexander’s accomplishments within the jazz-blues circles are akin to the heroes that urged him to pick up the guitar in the first place. A two-headed monster who divides his time between creation and education, Alexander’s sinful tone and smooth fretwork via his Fender Tele are a thing of unladen, soaring beauty. As affable as they come, and with a smile as wide-ranging as his skills on guitar, to be sure, Alexander’s 2021 debut, Introducing Cecil Alexander, is a modern-day masterstroke and certainly not one to miss.
4. Jesse Williams
Listen to: Time is Gone
Not to be confused with the veteran bassist of the same name, North Georgia singer, songwriter, and guitarist extraordinaire Jesse Williams, has made quite a name for herself over the last few years on the strength of her debut EP, Off the Vine (2020). With a profoundly groovy feel, and a sweeter-than-sweet tone sprouting from her fingers, Williams elicits images of Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, and the like, driving home old-school, downhome blues, tinged with southern influences throughout. Of late, the word is that Williams is working on a follow-up to Off the Vine, with her yet-to-be-titled debut full-length affair nearly prepared to emerge from her pipeline.
3. Marcus King
Listen to: Aim High
With two outstanding records under his belt – El Dorado (2020) and Young Blood (2022) – it’s plain to see that South Carolina native, Marcus King, is at the forefront of all thing’s blues in the modern era. Moreover, considering he’s only 26, fans can expect to see Greenville’s finest toting his ’65 Telecaster and his vintage ’62 ES-345 for years to come. With confidence that stretches or miles and both the chops and songs to back it up, there’s no doubt about it – Marcus King is a linchpin of the blues as we know it today.
2. Jackie Venson
Listen to: Love Transcends
Going about her business in conventional ways has never been Austin native Jackie Venson’s style. To that end, she didn’t even pick up the guitar until around ten years ago, instead focusing her attention on the piano, which only aided her along her journey once a guitar made its way into her nimble hands. No matter, though, as Venson was a natural, and four studio albums and a handful of EPs later, she truly is one of the most singular talents of her generation. As far as this list is concerned, at 32 years of age, Venson is an elder statesman, but make no mistake, she’s got a ton of miles left in her as she moves forward. With a love for Epiphone singlecuts and an affinity for classic humbuckers, you can expect Venson to set stages alight for years to come.
1. Ally Venable
Listen to: Heart of Fire
For the uninitiated, to be sure, your time is now as far as hopping on the Ally Venable bandwagon. Don’t believe us? Take Mike Zito’s – who named the 23-year-old Texas-born firecracker ‘Texas Honey’ – word for it. Or perhaps you’d rather ask Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Buddy Guy – both of which appeared on Venable’s latest and greatest studio records. Venable is the type of talent that only comes around once in a generation, so don’t miss it. With a heavy blues sound and soulful licks seldom seen, Venable wistfully summons ghosts while performing to adoring audiences. Each of her four records (soon to be five) has bettered the last, proving that with her beloved ’95 magenta-coloured Gibson Les Paul in hand, Venable is akin to a freight train heroically steaming to glory.
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