Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Johnny Winter - Roots

The Root Of All Pleasure

This is Johnny’s first album for seven years and he is back to his blues roots playing numbers by Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Son House and Muddy Waters amongst others. He is also accompanied by guest guitarists/musicians who duet to Johnny’s still wonderful playing. And he is in fine voice – it is a crystal clear recording, the performance mature to the bone and fleshed out with a lifetime of history and experience. That Johnny has shed his demons means he tours continuously, and I had the great pleasure of seeing him perform just over a year ago – helped onto stage [not me, Johnny aged then 66] and seated, but once connected to his guitar the National Grid would struggle to keep pace with his blues-powered natural energy.

Roots kicks off to T-Bone Walker’s T-Bone Shuffle, and the slide guitar of Sonny Landreth ignites the album’s riff-banter with Johnny. Bobby ‘Blue’ Band’s Further On Up The Road chugs in second with Jimmy Vivino laying down the complement. The ubiquitous Warren Haynes contributes next to Elmore James’ Done Somebody Wrong, and Johnny’s vocal can still growl out the blues with passion. Next up is Muddy Water’s Got My Mojo Workin’ where the blues harp of Frank Lotorre makes sure the title delivers its promise to the listener. This is followed by Last Night and virtuoso harp playing [it is dynamite], this time by John Popper, frontman from Blues Traveler, who slides and glides all over this Little Walter number with Johnny running up and down the neck in empathy. Chuck Berry’s Maybellene adds some rock’n’roll to the mix, and guest guitarist Vince Gill adds Country in this rousing version – Gill’s quick picking such a vivid mirror to Johnny’s speed. Susan Tedeschi offers a vocal shift in accompanying Johnny next on Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights, Big City, her guitar shining bright too. Brother Edgar plays saxophone on the one instrumental Honky Tonk and it’s a sibling stonker. The Tedeschi family line returns when husband Derek Trucks adds his slide guitar layers to Johnny’s on Robert Johnson’s Dust My Broom. Penultimate musical marriage is Larry William’s Short Fat Fannie with Johnny’s band member Paul Nelson on guitar – and when I saw this guy play an instrumental before Johnny came on stage he demonstrated some phenomenal skills. The final track is Walter Davis’ Come Back Baby and Johnny again sings with his signature growl and heart, the organ of John Medeski filling this blues ballad with its requisite warble and then stabs of other blues heart and soul – horns and Johnny’s final guitar fling filling out the emotion on this rousing closer.

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