Johnny Winter Gets Back to Roots

Roots is Johnny Winter's first new album since 2004's Grammy-nominated I'm A Bluesman.

By , Columnist

Johnny Winter is an accomplished guitarist who began his storied career as a bluesman at a very young age in Texas. His first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment (1968), gave him the drive to excel further at his craft. Not long after that debut release, he was in the hands of Columbia Records where he stepped into the rock and roll limelight, releasing album after album of memorable music including his legendary classic Second Winter in 1969.

Winter’s version of Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B Goode" springs from Second Winter. Amongst Johnny Winter fans, that version of the song is considered the definitive version. It’s certainly the fieriest of them all. By the arrival of Still Alive and Well in 1973, Johnny Winter had become well known for his potent brand of blues-rock. Winter was then, and still is, without a doubt, one of the great guitar players in the world of rock and roll.

Johnny Winter’s infatuation with songwriters greater than himself was never underscored more than on his own albums. From his first album until his “final” rock album with Columbia Records, John Dawson Winter III (1974), Winter recorded covers in a disproportionate manner, often eclipsing his own tunes threefold. In 1977, Winter stepped back into the world of blues with Nothing But the Blues.

Nothing But the Blues represents traditional blues in the style of Muddy Waters but with a unique Winter flair. On this album, Winter wrote all of the tunes except for one Muddy Waters-penned track, an unusual move. But what an album it is. He recorded two more with Columbia under the Blue Sky label before heading off to Alligator Records. Since then, Johnny Winter has released albums via different labels.

In 2004, Winter released I’m a Bluesman, issued on Virgin Records. As on previous efforts, I’m a Bluesman is home to more covers than Winter originals. In fact, there is only one Johnny Winter-penned song on the whole set. Regardless, the album, nominated for a Grammy, is one for the libraries. Over the years following I’m a Bluesman, Johnny Winter has done a fair amount of touring, partially in support of the 2004 album. At 67 years of age, that’s an impressive work ethic.

JohhnyWinterRootsCD.jpgOn September 27, Johnny Winter will release his latest album, Roots. Roots will collect 11 tracks of blues classics as covered by the guitar master himself. On most tracks, he draws significant talent to himself by inviting important blues musicians to play with him, one notable musician per track.

Examples include Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule) who plays on the Elmore James song, “Done Somebody Wrong,” Vince Gill, who joins on Chuck Berry’s classic “Maybelline,” and Derek Trucks (another great blues guitarist), who guests on the Robert Johnson tune, “Dust My Broom.”

Other guests include Derek Trucks’ wife and blues guitarist in her own right, Susan Tedeschi, Edgar Winter, John Popper, Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Vivino, John Medeski, and Paul Nelson. Johnny Winter plays solo on “Got My Mojo Workin’,” a Preston Foster-penned song once popularized by Muddy Waters.

Roots will be issued on CD, DD, and LP.

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Matt Rowe began his life with an AM radio, listening to anything that was considered music. Since, he has labored intently to build a collection of music, paring it down, rebuilding, and refining as he sees fit. His decided goal is to keep up with new music by panning for the nuggets among literal mountains…

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