Hard to believe another year is in the books. Since it's time for the obligatory 'best of' lists, I had to chime in with my best Blues releases from the past year. In no particular order, here's "Crash's Best of the Blues 2012":

Gary Clark Jr. (pictured) Blak & Blue. I first heard of Clark at the 'Red, White & Blues' tribute show at the White House. I started investigating to learn more and tried to convince Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues to book him at JazzFest. We got beat to the punch by Saturday in the Park in Sioux City and from everything I've heard, he killed it. Got his first full length release this year and listened over and over and over again. A rising star that we would be lucky to be able to get to town.

Michael Burks-Show of Strength. Some friends had turned me on to the "Iron Man" a few years ago and he was another name on my list of 'need to get to JazzFest'. Unfortunately, Burks collapsed and died in an airport while on tour this year, just weeks before his latest release was to come out. So sad that more people won't get to know Burks. Pick this one up. It'll give you a great feel for what Burks was. A powerful performer.

Janiva Magness-Stronger For It. I've been a fan of Magness' for a few years now and when I got her latest release last Spring, it quickly became my favorite of hers. Apparently I'm not the only one as the CD is up for five Blues Music Awards. Would love to see Janiva at JazzFest too.

Joe Louis Walker-Hellfire. Another performer some of my Blues Cruise friends turned me on to. Walker's release this year is just plain fun to listen to.

Anders Osborne-Black Eye Galaxy. After Osborne stole the show at JazzFest 2011, I was anxious to hear his new release this year. While not traditional blues, the songwriting is phenomenal, especially the autobiographical 'Black Tar' about his struggle with addiction.

Royal Southern Brotherhood-Self Titled debut. A supergroup of sorts with Cyrille Neville, Devon Allman and Mike Zito the driving forces. Neville's soulful vocals and duel guitarists in Allman and the under-appreciated Zito made this an easy pick as one of the best.

David Hidalgo, Mato Nanji & Luther Dickinson-3 Skulls and the Truth. What do you get when there is down time on the 'Experience Hendrix' tour that features some of the top guitarists in the world, touring with the music of Jimi? Inspiration! Hidalgo (Los Lobos) Nanji (Indigenous) and Dickinson (North Mississippi All-Stars) became friends on the tour and decided to work together when it was done. You hear all three of their 'regular' bands influences in an album that is a guitar orgy for those of us that love the Blues guitar!

Walter Trout-Blues For The Modern Daze. A true blues man road warrior. Walter continues to tour the world bringing amazing guitar work and meaningful lyrics to music lovers everywhere.

Joe Bonamassa-Driving Toward The Daylight. While it may not be his best effort, I'm still a fan of one of the hardest working guitar players on the planet. He plays hundreds of shows all over the world, guests on a number of friends albums every year (and check out the duets album he did this year with Beth Hart!) plus he seems to release a new album every year himself too. He hasn't been at JazzFest since 2005, but if I get my wish, he'll be in Yankton Trail Park this July.

Joanne Shaw Taylor-Almost Always Never. A solid release from the 26 year old British guitar player/singer who now resides in Detroit. Unfortunately, she had to cancel her March concert here in Sioux Falls, otherwise you would have been able to witness a young lady on the rise!

That's just a highlight of some of my favorites from the past year. 2013 is already looking great with new stuff due from Ana Popovic, Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Stephen Stills, Sena Ehrhardt Band, Tinsley Ellis, Trampled Under Foot, Kelly Richey, and Joe Bonamassa just to name a few!

Some of these artists you know already and some you may have never heard of. There are some incredible performers out there touring. Take a chance and go to a show! From the intimate setting of Old Skoolz, up to the Orpheum Theatre and Grand Falls Casino, and all the way to the thousands and thousands of us at JazzFest each summer, we're awfully lucky to get so many of these incredible musicians to stop by and play for us. We just need you to get out and support the shows so we can continue to get them.

Hope to see you at a show soon and as always, thanks for listening!