I got an email a while back from someone asking what CDs I recommend to him for learning to play blues guitar.

I thought I would do that right here in this blog post.  I cut my teeth on these albums and recommend anyone serious about learning blues guitar and slide guitar to at least check them out.

Here are some of the albums that helped me learn to play the blues.  Keep in mind this is not a list of the best blues albums, but the albums I think are necessary for learning blues rock guitar.  There are more albums that are great, so leave a comment below about your favorite albums.

Blues Guitar

  1. Door To DoorOtish Rush and Albert King.   Standout tracks are, “I Can’t Stop Baby”, “Won’t Be Hanging Around”, and “All Your Love”.  Otis had a killer vibrato and some stinging blues guitar licks like no other.
  2. Live at the Regal BB King.  One of the all time greatest blues albums of all time.  Licks that MUST be in your arsenal of blues guitar!
  3. Texas FloodSRV.  What can you say, SRV had power and tone beyond belief.  This album cut in a matter of days was done with only one overdub, and that’s because he broke a string in the middle of a solo.
  4. The Sky is CryingSRV. Another great SRV album.  Standouts include, “The Sky is Crying”, “Little Wing”, and “Chitlins Con Carne”.
  5. BurglarFreddie King. I love this album!  Funky with Eric Clapton playing rhythm guitar.  If you don’t have this one, you MUST get it.  Awesome funky blues with killer horns, bass lines, guitar and drumming.
  6. 24 NightsEric Clapton. This is worth it for the “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” version alone.  Standout tracks are, “Old Love”, “Before You Accuse Me”, and “Hard Times”.
  7. LaylaEric Clapton and Duane Allman. – Do I really need to tell you this album is good?
  8. Electric LadylandJimi Hendrix. Jimi was a great blues player in my opinion.  The version of Red House on this album is great as well as “Voodoo Chile” and “Voodoo Child”.  A must have for sure.
  9. Live At Fillmore EastAllman Brothers. This is the Holy Grail of guitar in my opinion.  If you only had one album in this list, I would say make it this one.  Yes it is that good!  Every track is a standout.
  10. Damn Right I got the Blues Buddy Guy. Buddy has amazing vocals and guitar.  I used to sit in my room with this album and try to get the feeling Buddy got out of his guitar.  Standout tracks are, “Damn Right I Got the Blues”, “Five Long Years”, and “Too Broke to Spend the Night”.
  11. Cold SnapAlbert Collins. This is a killer album with a killer band.  His vibrato and bending are unique to anyone.  Learn it!  Standout tracks are, “I Ain’t Drunk”, “Too Many Dirty Dishes”, and “Bending Like a Willow Tree”.
  12. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, The Beano Album – Eric Clapton. Historical album with legendary guitar licks and tones.  Standout tracks are, “All Your Love”, “Hideaeway”, and “Double Crossing Time”.

Slide Guitar

  1. Live at the Fillmore EastThe Allman Brothers.  “One Way Out”, “Done Somebody Wrong”, “Statesboro Blues”, and “Trouble No More”, Need I say more?
  2. An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band Set 1The Allman Brothers. Warren in Standard Tuning Slide.  “Blue Sky”, “End of the Line”, and “Dreams” are great learning tools.
  3. Govt MuleGovt Mule. Once again Warren showing a great way to learn slide in standard tuning.  He was pretty much the one that got me into playing slide guitar.  “Monkey Hill” and “Mule” are rocking to say the least!
  4. Live at the Georgia TheatreDerek Trucks. This is the album that I cut my teeth on to learn open e tuning slide guitar along with Joyful Noise.  It has amazing slide guitar that will make your jaw drop.  Standout tracks are, “Gonna Move”, “Feels So Bad”, and “Leaving Trunk”.
  5. Joyful  NoiseDerek Trucks. Just a great album to get into Derek Trucks.  Standout tracks are, “Joyful Noise”, “Home in Your Heart”, and “Like Anyone Else”.
  6. Johnny WinterThird Degree. Johnny Winter is a killer slide guitarist and early on I saw what was possible with the slide.  Standout tracks are, “Mojo Boogie”, and “Bad Girl Blues”.
  7. Where it All Begins Allman Brothers. This album is the how I learned to play slide guitar in standard tuning.  Warren is just awesome and if you want to play slide guitar is standard tuning, this is a must have album.  Standout tracks are, “No One To Run With”, All Night Train”, and “Everybody’s Got a Mountain To Climb”.

Well that’s pretty much the albums I cut my teeth on to learn blues and slide guitar.  There are others but I can’t list every single album here.

I must say that writing this blog post has taken me back to the days when I spent time in my room listening, and wishing I could reproduce the sounds of those legendary albums.  While I was learning those licks back then, it only seemed like a dream that someday I would actually be able to play some of those guitar licks in front of people.

Do you have any albums you spent a lot of time learning?  List them below in the comments.  I’m sure I left out some good ones.

Breaking Out of The Pentatonic Box Free Course

I’ll send you my completely Free, Blues Guitar Mini Course and regular subscriber-exclusive content.

45 Minute Video Guitar Course

8 MP3 Backing Track Downloads

7 Practice Tips Video

Get the Free Course

12 Comments

  1. The Allman Brothers are definitely my favorite band at the moment. I always find myself returning to them just like I did years ago when I was younger. I always recommend Where It All Begins to my friends when they’re interested in new music.

    Mike

    1. Where It All Begins is just a great album. Saw them when they toured for that album. It was awesome! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Hey John All the albums you mentioned are some of my favorites too.
    Here are a few others I like.

    Claptons first solo album with Bottle of Red Wine on it.
    Mick Taylor and the Stones – Exile on Main Street
    Ronnie Earl – Language of the Soul
    John Mayall and the Blues Breakers 1967 – A Hard Road-with Peter Green
    Freddie King -Just Pickin
    Michael Bloomfield -Blues, Gospel and Ragtime Guitar Instrumentals
    Paul Butterfield Blues Band ( Michael Bloomfield)
    Elmore James – Dust my Broom
    Johhny Winter – Second Winter
    Ry Cooder- Into the Purple Valley

    Best regards

    Paul

    1. Into the Purple Valley was my first slide guitar inspiration but the bulk of Ry Cooder’s material was and continues to be my number 1 influence in slide guitar.

      For Rolling Stones albums featuring stellar slide work, I would also include Brian Jones’ simple but emotive performances on Beggars Banquet (No Expectations, Salt of the Earth, Jigsaw Puzzle, Parachute Woman).

      I would also recommend:

      Mississippi Fred MacDowell – Steakbone Slide Guitar
      Charlie Patton – any of the many collected works albums
      Son House – The Legendary Son House: Father of the Folk Blues

  3. Great list John. This is a fantastic idea. Here are a few I listened to as I was learning:

    Little Feat – “Waiting for Columbus.” Although it is technically not a blues album, it features some breathtaking slide work from the late Lowell George. His sustain, tone and clarity are incredible.

    Allman Brothers – “Beginnings.” This is a compilation of their first 2 albums. They were masters even at this early phase of their careers. The passion and intensity of their playing was already apparent.

    Roy Buchanan – “Live Stock.” I feel Roy Buchanan is criminally unappreciated. He was a genius. His playing continues to inspire me 30 years later.

    Albert King -“Born Under a Bad Sign.” This album is a must for anyone learning to play the blues. He was The Man!

    Otis Rush – “Classic Cobra Recordings.” Otis Rush is my favorite overall blues guitarist. He is not the fastest or the flashiest, but he wrings every ounce of emotion possible out of each note he plays. His vibrato is beautiful, almost mournful sounding.

    Taj Mahal – “The Natch’l Blues.” This is a brilliant album from beginning to end. Jesse Ed Davis plays great electric style and Taj Mahal shines on the resonator. For some reason this album does not receive much attention. You should check this out.

    Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – “Blues Guitar Virtuoso Live in Europe.” Ronnie Earl is my second favorite blues player, right behind Otis Rush. His playing is impassioned, with killer tone and vibrato. He is very understated, more interested in supporting the song than overplaying to grab the spotlight. (But make no mistake, he can fly up and down the neck like lightning!) A master of modern blues.

    Earl Hooker “Simply the Best.” Earl Hooker, John Lee Hooker’s cousin, played with Muddy Waters and others in a support role. His slide playing is some of the best on record. He plays very clean and in standard tuning. His intonation is flawless. He passed away at a young age and has not gotten the acclaim he deserves.

    Thanks…Brian Diller

  4. Live at the Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers

    What a horrible pick. It’s obvious you are an Allman Bothers fan, and that’s totally cool but it seems your love for this band has colored your judgement.

    I listened to this first as you so highly recommended it, and I will continue to listen to your choices, but this is definitely not a blues album.

    Yes, it is “bluesy”.but there is no way that I would call it blues. Early AC/DC is more bluesy than this, and I wouldn’t call them blues either. I was never a huge Allman Brothers fan, and am even less one now. The guitar has an “airy” quality that starts to become grating after awhile. Like a bad perfume that gets in your nose and makes it itch.

    On one track (I forget which, but I think maybe Mountain Jam), the guitarist hits a clinker. Rather than just continuing, or recovering, he plays a whole bar in the bad key. This is of course excusable on a live album, but as I was listening to it as a teaching aid it was a little disappointing.

    Worst of all is the musical insult to Robert Johnson, “Drunken Hearted Boy”. There is some solid blues guitar, but solid is all it is and I wouldn’t call it inspired in any way. Also, it sounds like the singer is trying to sound drunk, which he does not pull off, and it is actually a little embarrassing.

    I’m sure that Allman Brothers fans will think this is a great album. But it is not at all a blues album. There is definitely a bluesy quality, and some technical difficulty, but it is solidly ’60’s rock, and contains only slightly more blues than a gazilion other ’60’s rock albums (and sounds just as dated).

    I fail to see the value of this for teaching blues. Slide guitar notwithstanding, there is nothing earth-shaking here, and nothing that couldn’t be better taught by listening to the old masters.

  5. Thanks for sharing John. I love these lists ’cause they almost always get you in touch with ‘new’ music. I’d like to add the following to the list:
    BB King – Live in Japan. Almost no talking, less singing but loads of stellar guitar playing.
    Freddie King – The blues live! Starts with a 13 min version of Have you ever loved a woman that’s simply amazing.
    Howlin’ Wolf – The London Session. With Eric Clapton and Hubert Sumlin as sidemen.
    Lonnie Mack – Strike like lightning. Together with SRV Lonnie plays at his best.
    Luther Allison – Songs from the road. Another great blues live record. Blistering licks and haunting voice.
    Sean Costello – Sean’s Blues. Just recently discovered his music but what a great guitarist and singer he was. His Double Trouble is so heartfelt, it brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it.
    SRV – The Real Deal vol 1 and 2. Greatest hits collection. All of them excellent and a stellar 9 min version of my personal favorite Tin Pan Alley. That tone is the holy grail imho.
    Albert King – The Definitive. 34 crazy good songs.
    Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland and Robert Cray – Showdown! A superb collaboration album.
    Gary Moore – Blues for Greeny. His bow to Peter Green. Excellent!
    Muddy Waters – Anthology. Great for blues and slide.
    Chris Whitley – Live at Martyrs’ His albums contain some of the greatest slide playing ever on this planet while he is probably one of the least known. Especially live he was such an avid performer. Another great gone to soon.

Comments are closed.