Dear Friends,

This month, I’ll do something I’m sure you never expected–praise other producers! I know some of you think these letter/ads are a bit of an ego trip for me, and I certainly never suggested I was ego-free. I’m very proud of the records I’ve produced and co-produced, but my LB ramblings have tended to focus on my own experiences in the studio. Actually, since the early ’80s, I’ve been exposed to some brilliant blues recordings from other producers made both here and in Europe and when possible I’ve acquired the rights to these albums for Alligator. Of course there are terrific producers doing work for my competitors, but I’ll let you find out about them yourselves!

Just this year, we’ve released three non-Bruce productions. At the end of January we celebrated Charlie Musselwhite’s 50th birthday with the release of “In My Time,” which has already been hailed as Charlie’s best album ever. Charlie and producer Kevin Morrow took a bold approach to this album, kicking it off with three quiet and sensitive guitar (!!) tunes {yes, Charlie on guitar, not harp), one accompanied by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Guitar was Charlie’s first instrument; he’s an extremely subtle and deep Delta blues player. Plus his singing on these numbers is as personal and intimate as anything he’s ever recorded. From there, the album jumps to a set with the cream of the West Coast’s ’50s-style swing blues revivalists and then to a set with Charlie’s hot and funky touring band. Coming full circle, the closer is an old gospel tune with just Charlie and the Blind Boys. “In My Time” touches on all the different musics that Charlie Musselwhite has played in his career and the performances are breathtaking. And I didn’t produce a lick of it!

In February, we released our first album by Sugar Blue, the controversial, groundbreaking high-energy harp player best known for his work on “Miss You” by the Stones (but also a key member of the Chicago blues community for the last decade). Sugar produced the album himself along with engineer Fred Breitberg for the Japanese label King Records. The energy level is amazing, and Sugar plays the exact meaning of the word pyrotechnical (a combination of fire and great chops, which I guess means a tasty and meaty album). Blues harp meets rock and jazz and funk, and Sugar truly takes harp where no man has gone before. And I didn’t produce a lick of it!

Just last week, we released (in America and Australia only) the first new U.S. recording in fifteen years by the youngest of the first generation West Side guitar masters, Luther Allison. It’s called “Soul Fixin’ Man” and it was produced by Jim Gaines in Memphis; Jim produced Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana among others. Luther’s been living in Europe for over ten years, so you may not know that he’s one of the most exciting and soulful live performers in the blues. Plus, he plays some MEAN guitar….which I guess you’d expect of a man who studied under Freddie King, Otis Rush and Magic Sam. Luther plays like a bluesman and sings like a soul man, and if he had stayed in the USA I think he would have become one of THE names in the blues (as he is in Europe). In fact, it was producing a Luther Allison concert at my college back in 1969 that lured me into the blues business and secured me my job at Delmark, so it seems appropriate indeed that Luther and Alligator have at last connected. (And I didn’t produce a lick of it!)

Next time, I’ll tell you about another excellent non-Bruce production…. our classic Buddy Guy album, “Stone Crazy.” And all about the newest contender for “Bluesman for the 21st Century” Michael Hill.

Bruce Iglauer