Best blues vocalist

Let's hear it audiohounds. Air your opinions out to dry. To avoid tedious redundancy, state one of 3 categories (this way we don't have to wade through a comparison of Robert Johnson with Robert Plant!)

1. Pre-war blues
2. Electric blues
3. Blues-rock

1. Pre-war blues

Which war?
Spanish American? Granada? Or one of the somewhat more involved affairs? How about police actions, do they count?

Female - Billie’s a good choice but I’ll go with Ella Fitzgerald if I can pick the war.

Male - Leadbelly. Anyone who can sing themselves out of prison twice? No brainer here.

2. Electric blues

Female - The little gal with the big voice from Port Arthur TX… Janis Joplibn. Duh.

Male – Michael John (…and the bottom Line Band West Coast Big band Blues), otherwise Johnny Lang’s emotive powers usually makes him stand out to me in spite of his less than dazzeling vocal ability. Walter Trout is a better singer. Michael J. though puts both energy and ability into his vocals as the band’s front man.

3. Blues-rock

Female - Bonnie Raitt seems a shoe in here, but Susan Tedeski does have some nice cords.

Male - George Thoroughgood, Derek Trucks. Someone else can support Clapton or Trower.
Pre-war for me has to be Robert Wilkins, who became the reverend Robert Wilkins, however I draw the line at the sixties rediscovery material which is weak. His 1927-1930 sessions are sublime.

My favorite electric vocal accompaniment is Sonnyboy Williamson (Rice Miller), however when he got discovered in the sixties and went to europe he made a series of terrible records which are actually quite popular. Lots of self-conscious tomfoolery and posturing for the kids. What I like are his chess sides, almost all of them, from the early 50's to about 1963.

Blues-rock is a difficult genre to choose within because of the astounding range of approaches. You really can't compare the best ones because they are so different. Pressed, I might choose Captain Beefheart (Do Van Vliet). Just listen to 'Mirror Man' from 1970. Genius.
There are too many for me to draw a full list, but here are a couple of women who might otherwise go unmentioned: Odetta and Koko Taylor. Check out "Gallows Pole" and "Wang Dang Doodle", respectively. I think pretty much everyone has taken a shot at "Wang Dang" and I'll take Koko's over the whole lot of 'em (including Howlin' Wolf's version). Just MHO.

The beauty of making such a list is in its impossibility. Forcing a choice gets your critical thinking cookin'. I have already changed my mind about what I wrote. It is inevitable.

NOTE: Maybe Tommy Jonson instead of Robert Wilkins?
A good answer to this silly question would be 1) Robert Johnson, 2) Otis Rush, 3) Etta James.
agree totally with terry reid for the blues rock catagory...honorable mentions in the same catagory Scott Morgan and Steve for the other catagories, I'll throw in Alberta Hunter and Muddy Waters just to mix it up.
I know you have not heard of her but Rene Marie is terrific. She has a website and you can probably listen to her music.
I have heard her live. She is just a great person as well as a great singer.

Her recordings are audiophile as well, a real plus.

1. torn between Billie & Big Mamma
2. Junior Wells
3. contemporary... can't pick anyone who'd be labeled as blues, but Marianne Faithful, Beth Gibbons, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Ted Hawkins. okay okay. enough the award goes to Lucinda Williams.
Although I am periodically guilty, I try to keep in mind Nick Hornby's dictum that lists are for people who don't want to think. Ouch.

whadaya think? -)