I am a mad Johnny Winter fan — and I mean “mad” as in “wildly crazy” for the guy — he’s one of the best guitarists of our lifetime and above all his suffering and addiction he has let his music continue to speak for him and to foster our national tempering. Johnny’s latest musical masterpiece — Roots — dropped today and it is a fantastic collaboration of bright minds.
Johnny Winter has been playing the roots of Blues guitar for over 42 years. Johnny is best known for his live recordings — Roots is only his second studio album in the last decade and a half — and we appreciate the better sound quality and the fruitful musical collaborations in this special tribute to the Blues.
Sonny Landreth, Vince Gill, Warren Haynes, John Popper, Jimmy Vivino, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, John Medeski and Johnny’s brother, Edgar Winter, play on the album, his first studio release since 2004’s “I’m a Blues Man.”
“Every song I loved — they’re all big influences on me,” Winter tells Billboard.com, speaking from Paris where he is on a short European tour. “It’s way past time for me (to record an album like this).”
Noted guitarists perform with Winter on more than half the tracks. On Robert Johnson’s “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” he is partnered with Trucks, on T-Bone Walker’s “T-Bone Shuffle” with Landreth, on Elmore James “Done Somebody Wrong” with Haynes, and on “Maybellene” with Gill. Tedeschi plays lead guitar and sings on Jimmy Reed’s 1961 hit, “Bright Lights, Big City” and Paul Nelson, who produced the album, joins in on Larry Williams’ “Short Fat Fannie.”
The album is terrific and satisfying on every level, and Johnny will still blister your ears with his fingers. I confess that “Bright Lights, Big City” is one great duet with Susan Tedeschi. She’s aflame with song in both gravelly voice and sparkling guitar.
When we look back on the grand career of Johnny Winter, we are blessed with a feverish musicality that never lost its heat. We found a grand and verifiable voice in his magnificent guitar playing. There was never an in-between moment with Johnny on his strings, it was all pure energy and compartmentalized passion that played out before us and taught us all how to live life without regret and to leave remorse on the front porch. To hear Johnny Winter play the guitar is to feel the pulsing heartbeat of a still thriving American Blues tradition.