Given the depth of the local blues talent pool, there are plenty of plausible contenders for this category, from revered elder statesmen to hardworking, talented younger players. Bennie Smith represents the best of both worlds. He's a veteran musician with a rich history who still gets out and works around town nearly every week. His idiosyncratic guitar style and expressive vocals have kept him busy playing the blues for close to half a century now, and along the way he's been a mentor to several generations of aspiring St. Louis musicians. If Bennie Smith were a building, he'd be a historic landmark. Appropriately, he recently received a mayoral proclamation honoring his accomplishments as an artist and his contributions to the St. Louis music community. As for the rest of us, the best way to recognize Smith's greatness would be to simply listen and enjoy it.