Back in the '90s, just as the blues' first full generation of white practitioners began to gray and the black masters of the form departed with greater frequency, up popped a handful of young African American artists seemingly bound and determined to claim their legacy and revitalize blues from the bottom up. Artists such as Corey Harris, Keb Mo,' and Chris Thomas King (of the cast of Ray) dove into traditional forms, played them with authority, and gave the old blues a new relevance, connecting the dots from blues to soul, reggae, hip-hop, and other latter-day strains.
Oakland-born Alvin Youngblood Hart absorbed the blues during family visits to rural Mississippi in the late '60s and broke out with his 1996 debut disc, Big Mama's Door, netting the W.C. Handy Award the following year for Best New Artist. Hart proved himself to be conversant in both the rougher Delta and easier-going Piedmont country-blues styles, and emerged as a full-force blues growler in the tradition of Bukka White and Charley Patton. His third release, 2000's Start With the Soul, made the New York Times' year-end top 10 by sporting a vibrant mix of blues, R&B, and Southern-fried jam rock. His 2002 release, Down in the Alley, finds Hart back in the deep blues of Patton, Son House, and Skip James in kick-ass form.