Dear Friends,

Because Living Blues skipped an issue, I’ve got four months of news to cram into this letter. First of all, we’re thrilled to have earned 19 W.C. Handy Award nominations for Alligator artists and recordings, with Shemekia Copeland, W.C. Clark, Marcia Ball and Cephas & Wiggins receiving multiple nominations. Handy Week in Memphis is one of the essential blues events of the year; you should be there.

In January we released the first three of our new, budget-priced Crucial Blues series–Crucial Guitar Blues, Crucial Harmonica Blues and Crucial Chicago Blues. These three CDs bring together essential tracks from 32 years of Alligator’s history, featuring artists like Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Carey Bell, Sonny Terry and of course Hound Dog Taylor. For the long-time blues collector, these may be familiar performances. But for the new blues fan, this is an ideal way to immerse yourself (or a blues newcomer friend) in some great blues at a bargain price. And there’s no better way to buy them than directly from Remember, when you visit our web site, check out the new online jukebox with 100 songs you can hear in their entirety.

We’ve just finished preparing our two March releases. The first is That’s Right!, the Alligator debut by Roomful of Blues. I’ve been a Roomful fan for decades; they were the first band to revive the big, swinging horn sound of the ‘40s and ‘50s, and they’ve done it better than anyone else for over 30 years. This will be their 17th (!) career album and I’m thrilled that it will be on Alligator. It features Roomful’s most recent personnel lineup with Mark DuFresne on vocals and harmonica. It’s definitely a ‘return to the roots’ recording, with new versions of obscure and classic songs from the great era of blues horn bands. Most of all, That’s Right! is loads of fun, jumps like hell and will make you want to get up and dance.

I’ve also just finished mastering Dave Hole’s upcoming live album, entitled (appropriately) The Live One. Dave is a fantastic slide guitarist, with more chops and higher energy than almost anyone; this is his first live recording. It was cut partly during Dave’s 2002 U.S. tour, at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Chord On Blues in St. Charles, IL, and partly in his hometown of Perth, Australia. I suspect that it will be my favorite of Dave’s albums, as it’s virtually all pure blues (it rocks, but it’s not rock) with simply fabulous slide guitar.

Marcia Ball has just finished recording a new CD entitled So Many Rivers. Marcia brings her warm, wry touch to every song she records, from joyful New Orleans funk to Gulf Coast swamp pop to beautiful, heart wrenching ballads. Stephen Bruton produced this new CD and did a masterful job. Marcia has become one of Alligator’s most popular artists, with her unending tour schedule and her wonderful ability to turn every gig into a party. Check out our web site for her upcoming tour dates, and check out So Many Rivers when it’s released in late April.

Last week I returned from Memphis where I was recording the second CD by one of the blues’ brightest future stars, Michael Burks. We cut 15 tunes with the same great band that appeared on Michael’s Make It Rain CD, and the great Jim Gaines co-producing. If you liked Michael’s last album or have seen one of his powerhouse, live shows, you’ll love this new release. Michael has grown immensely as an artist since he first blew out of Arkansas a few years ago, and this new album captures him at the peak of his powers. We’re tentatively setting a June release date.

Sorry I had no time for any Alligator reminiscences in this letter; I’ll look backwards again next time.

Bruce Iglauer