Bobby "Blues" BlandBobby Bland -- Two Steps from the Blues
Bobby Bland -- I Can't Put You Down
Bobby "Blues" Bland is a giant in the field. He started off in electric blues, with a sound a bit like B.B. King's work (Bland and King played together in a group before Bland's solo career; and they recorded a couple of albums together in the mid-1970s once Bland's career began to flag). Bland's palette would broaden a bit as his career wore on, his sound becoming more suave, developing into soul with a gospel tinge, but I think his early stuff is ace material too.
"I Can't Put You Down" is classic blues, well-done: horns, guitar, piano rolling along, with Bland's wail cutting through it all.
"Two Steps from the Blues" is a softer number about a strained relationship: it's got a backbeat, a picked triplet figure, some horns mostly low in the mix, and Bland's voice plaintive yet trying to hold out hope.
"I Can't Put You Down" is available on The 3B Blues Boy - The Blues Years: 1952-59, which allmusic.com rates mediocre, and on I Pity the Fool, which is rated much higher, is out of print, and sells for $65 used. Right. I picked it up on an MCA LP (The Best of Bobby Bland, vol. 2) printed in 1980 with a mixed-up track list on the back. Lousy cover, lousy liner notes, great music. The LP was in tip-top shape but at only ten tracks, it's in the rare position of being entirely too short.
"Two Steps from the Blues" is available on the compilation by that name. That one might be too short too.
... The more I use all these various guides to foo, the more I notice all the odd quirks in them: Maltin's aversion to violence, Ebert's rush to praise the brilliant and the formulaic foreign films, Allmusic's complete disconnect between a writeup and a rating (e.g. saying "age didn't improve this record; it's still only okay" but giving it a 4.5 out of 5, or saying an album "maintained the high standard" set by previous high-ranking records, but giving it 2.5 out of 5). I think they're useful anyway, even moreso once you pick up on the inconsistencies and biases, but it makes me idly curious what sort of bent I'm showing in my selections. No big deal, in any case; I'm not losing sleep over it.
In any case, here's Allmusic.com writeup of Bland's career.