The best live blues recording is in my opinion - Mighty Sam Mcclain "Joy and pain" Crosscut Records - 11058 - Voice, room, perspective, details, live feeling - you can't ask for more and Mighty is incrediable - just buy it!
IMHO the place to start would be "Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings" on Columbia/Legacy. The blues just about started here, and it does not get much deeper or more profound. The 2 CD set contains all the material Mr. Johnson ever recorded. The recordings are from 1936-37 and were first released on 78rpm, so no audiophile stuff here in terms of room, perspective, details....but anyone who loves the blues should own this. Sorry, but I can't think of any really GREAT all instrumental (traditional) blues albums. Enjoy the music! Robert.
If you have the capability to play DVDs, then by all means check out the David "HoneyBoy" Edwards disc, titled "Shake' em On Down" on the Analog Productions label (APO DAPO 2010), available through Acoustic Sounds. This a wonderful A/V project with 24/96 audio and real time video of the actual recording. Included is a nearly 18 minute interview of Mr. Edwards experiences as a blues player in the early days.
All though it is not instrumental blues... Muddy Waters - Folk Singer on MFSL. Incredible!!! Might be the best.
The only consistent way to listen to blues in instrumental form that I can think of is 'Jazz-blues.' A few titles that spring to mind are John Coltrane 'Plays the Blues' (Atlantic), Wynton Marsalis 'The Majesty of the Blues' (Columbia) and Lionel Hampton 'Just Blues' (not sure of the last title or label). There is a LOT of blues-influenced Jazz to be found. True "Blues" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) IS vocal-based. That's why they call it "singing the blues" :-(
The Mississippi Fred McDowell double album on Capitol.
For purely instrumental blues,you have to have Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" on Columbia. There are also some re-issue versions as well. William Clarke's "Blowin' Like Hell" on the Alligator label and Roy Gaines "I Got the T-Bone Walker Blues" on Groove Note are also enjoyable. The Muddy Waters mentioned above is excellent. Also,just popped into my head- Sonny Boy Williamson's "Keep it to Ourselves" and the Don Euell Quartet "Yellow Dog Blues" . You could probably order all this stuff from Acoustic Sounds in Kansas at 1-800-716-3553. Enjoy! Nothing's better than good Blues!
For high NRG Chicago blues; Buddy Guy's "Damn Right I've Got the Blues" is great with lots of guitar fire power-- his version of "Mustang Sally" is killer, and BG is a living legend. For a softer sound, but still "Chicago", try Otis Rush's "Lost in the Blues". I also really like Koko Taylor's music, but it's much more "vocal" than instrumental. Happy Listenening. Craig.
With due respect to El34, Miles Davis's album "Kind of Blue" has no blues on it. It may FEEL bluesy, but blues is actually a vocal form characterized by an "aab" rhyming scheme. The primary form used on this album, which made it unique at the time it was recorded, was the use of the modal form (groupings of 3-5 note chords using several different scales, such as Dorian, Corinthian, etc.) Bill Evans, the featured pianist, was experimenting with modal forms for jazz improvisation. I am not familiar with any purely instrumental blues recordings, although recordings of early blues artists tend to be more instrumental than contemporary recordings. Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, and Brownie McGhee are good examples of delta-style blues guitarists. If you want to check out some recent artists that feature a fair amount of instrumental work, you might like the album recorded by Drink Small for the Mapleshade Recordings label; Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters album "Ballads and Blues"; and some of Stevie Ray Vaughn's work. One other idea: look into the recordings done for the Folkways label in the 1930's and 40's. They are available from the Smithsonian Institution, and are fabulous treasure trove of authentic blues and folk music.
Misikdoc is right, most of the blues is vocal based unless it's blues based jazz. As far as blues being an aab vocal form i would say that it's better defined as some permutation of a I, IV, V chord progression based on a major scale and the dorian and mixolydian modes thereof, though the vocal field call roots of the blues can never be denied.. The use of 3 to 5 note chords is not confined to modal music nor is it a defining feature. Modal music tends to have a static tonic over long time intervals and the harmony is implied during improvisation throught the use of modes of the scale defined by the tonic. I don't think corinthian is a mode (scale) in any western music i have ever heard of. That said, look into Ronnie Earl's Guitar Virtuoso in Europe for all instramental blues..real good stuff. Ronnie also did a great album with Pinetop Perkins and 2 other guys..i don't remember the title but search out the album it's worth it. The cover has the 4 guys on it with ronnie holding a resonator guitar For that matter anything with pinetop playing on it has proven to be good, roomful of blues did an early album with pintop that is also real cool. Duke Robillard is another great guy to check into and a good bit of his work (especially on after hours swing session) is instrumental. If you like the more swinging version of the blues you might as well check out Gatemouth Brown...a true living legend . Good luck on your search and remember da blues is a good thing
I concur with the recommendations of the MFSL Muddy Waters disc (aside from great music, fantastic recording) and Buddy Guy's "Damn Right I've Got the Blues." I've owned both these discs for 2-3 years and I never, ever get tired of listening to either one. Check them out; you won't be disappointed - you might even be thrilled.
......One I missed; The best blues CD I've ever heard is "Strike A Deep Chord", sub-title "Blues For the Homeless"-- various artists. As I understand it, this CD was made to call attention to and benefit the homeless. Besides being excellent Blues, it is one of the best recordings I've heard. Mostly vocal, but very highly recommended. Long live the Blues. Cheers. Craig.
a new taj mahal cd, "shoutin' in key", is an excellent live recording, combining instumental and vocal blues selections. (yeah, i know blues is supposed to be a vocal genre, but there's a helluva lot of instrumental stuff out there that clearly mimics the aab rhyming scheme.) taj's backup, the phantom blues band, is comprised of absolutely first-rate musicians. IMHO, a little better sounding cd by taj mahal is "an evening of acoustic music." some may catagorize the latter recording as more "folk" than "blues," but it does have several classic blues numbers on it, including 2 great covers of robert johnson: dust my broom & come on in my kitchen. try 'em; i think you'll like 'em.
try miles davis,kind of blue on columbia #ck 64935 and mighty sam mcclain, soul survivors on audio quest. lots agree it's miles davis best work.kind of blues have several re-issues you must get columbia ck64935.
try "preaching the blues" on mapleshade. terrific slide & piedmont blues + great recording.
"Where it all begins" by the Allman brothers. Their best album by far. Incredible blues guitar and vocals. A little on the rock side, but awesome. Chill-out by JL Hooker is good too.