Best Blues Artist - 2005
Recent losses in the St. Louis blues community are a reminder that the music's elder statesmen won't be with us forever, so we'd better appreciate them while we can. Guitarist and vocalist Bennie Smith has been a mainstay in St. Louis for decades, developing a unique musical identity based on his expressive vocals and a distinctive guitar style that incorporates jazz harmonies and unusual rhythmic displacements while still retaining the grit, grease and guts of the blues. He's also been a mentor, teacher and friend to many younger guitarists. But one listen to Smith's wonderfully idiosyncratic playing suggests that the teacher, though generous with his apprentices, has nevertheless saved some of the very best tricks for himself.