I just finished mastering Guitar Shorty’s brand new Alligator album, We The People. It should bring Shorty some of the acclaim he’s always deserved as a grassroots blues/rock pioneer, melding the high energy Texas blues guitar tradition with the wildest of rock string-bending. Shorty’s fiery, unpredictable, seat-of-the-pants guitar work has been honed over five decades on the road. In fact, I just saw an incredible picture of baby Shorty cradling a guitar while in his diapers (talk about being “born to play the blues”). Listening to his amazing playing and raw-boned vocals on We The People makes it easy for me to hear how Shorty was a major influence on his one-time brother-in-law, Jimi Hendrix. But Shorty is his own man in every way; this new album confirms his role as one of the major creative bluesmen of his generation.
I fell for Shorty’s music when I first saw him, during the time he was recording for our friends at the Black Top label. But his albums always paled next to his powerhouse live shows, where he pulled out all the stops and poured raw emotion into every song. When I had a chance to release Shorty’s Watch Your Back album a couple years ago, I jumped at the chance. And a lot of you agreed with me; in this era of declining CD sales, it became the best seller of Shorty’s long career. We The People reunites Shorty with Brian Brinkerhoff, who co-produced Watch Your Back, along with the well-named Wyzard (hey, if Madonna can have only one name…) who teamed with Shorty in the studio, playing bass and co-producing. Together they wrote and chose a dozen songs that perfectly fit Shorty’s take-no-bull sound. The new album will be out mid-August, and will be our last 2006 release. Next year, look for new Gators by The Holmes Brothers, Coco Montoya, Michael Burks and more.
By the way, I want to say a big “thanks” to all you blues fans who have embraced our new artist Eric Lindell. I really thought that Eric’s blues-influenced rootsy songs would be a little too far from the blues mainstream (even though I love them) to speak to the hardcore fans. But I’ve gotten lots of mail saying, “what do you mean he’s not a bluesman? Sure feels like blues to me.” I urge you to go catch his live show during his endless 2006 debut tour. You won’t be disappointed. Or check out songs from his Change In The Weather album on our website, either on our Jukebox or with a free download on our Goodies page. That’s www.alligator.com (bet you knew that).
Last time, I finished telling you about the making of our epic Showdown! album. That 1985 release was followed by two albums that we licensed from friends of ours in France—Jimmy Johnson’s Bar Room Preacher and Gatemouth Brown’s Pressure Cooker. I had recorded Jimmy’s soaring guitar and gospel-tinged vocals a few years before for our Living Chicago Blues series, after which he cut two fine albums for our friends at Delmark. Jimmy had grown into one of Chicago’s strongest and most original bluesmen, and when I heard this album, cut with his regular road band during a European tour, I wanted it on Alligator. I have to say honestly that it isn’t one of our better album covers, but don’t let that keep you from hearing one of Chicago’s finest bluesmen.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was finally honored, late in his career, as one of the most exciting and influential bluesmen ever (OK, Gate, I know you wanted to be referred to as playing ‘American Music, Texas Style’ but it sure sounded like blues to me). But during the ‘60s and ‘70s, Gate’s career was languishing in the States while he toured regularly in Europe. He recorded extensively there, often pairing with some of the great jazz players of his own generation. The tracks on Pressure Cooker, drawn from three of his best releases on the French Black & Blue label, capture Gate at his finest, delivering piercing, swinging guitar and some wry vocals with Gate’s signature Texas twang. For a taste of both these albums, check out the Alligator website jukebox.
Hope to see you at a festival this summer,