I’m very honored to learn that in February I’ll be receiving the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping The Blues Alive” award for my work as a Producer. It’s a career award, not for any one year’s productions, but this has been a year when I’ve been happy to spend more time in the studio and less time being a businessman. Of course my key 2007 production was Koko Taylor’s wonderful Old School album. I helped mix Eric Lindell’s upcoming Low On Cash, Rich In Love in New Orleans and Tinsley Ellis’ Moment Of Truth back here in Chicago. In September I flew down to Dallas to record Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s debut for Alligator, Blood Brothers, which will be out in March. Last week I was supervising the mastering of our next release by Roomful Of Blues, entitled Raisin’ A Ruckus. Next week, I’ll be back in the studio to mix Michael Burks’ third Gator, Iron Man, produced right here in Chicago with his red-hot road band. Finally, I’ve been working on some mixes for the first Alligator album ever by Chicago’s West Side legend, Eddy Clearwater. Helping the musicians in the creative process is my greatest pleasure, and I’m always very pleased and flattered when I’m asked by an artist to produce. Over the last 36 years, I’ve produced or co-produced 107 blues albums, not including the ones for which I’ve acted as executive producer, mix supervisor, mastering supervisor or song contributor. I turned 60 this year (I can’t believe it) and this body of music might seem like a lifetime’s accomplishment, but there will be plenty more on Alligator. I’m not planning on dying or retiring any time soon!
The new Roomful Of Blues CD will be their third for Alligator, and the first with their big-voiced new singer Dave Howard. It’s firmly in the Roomful “little big band” tradition, the tradition that has earned them some of the most loyal fans in the blues for almost 40 years. As has been true for so long, their songs mix swing, jump and 1940s and 1950s style R&B with more contemporary rocking blues, all propelled by the great Roomful horn section, rollicking boogie piano and Chris Vachon’s super-tasty guitar. As is always the case, the songs are designed to keep you grinning and keep the dance floor full.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the way the blues community has embraced Eric Lindell. I’d call his music more roots rock than blues, with plenty of the musical flavors of his adopted hometown of New Orleans. But his 2006 Alligator album, Change In The Weather, was nominated for a Blues Music Award as Best Debut. On his upcoming record, Low On Cash, Rich In Love Eric gets bluesier, and his cool harp playing (inspired by his hero, Junior Wells) is featured on a couple of songs. But primarily this album is about his brilliantly simple, infectious original songs, down home vocals and funky grooves. Both Roomful’s and Eric’s new Alligators are due out in mid January. By the time you read this, there will be a couple songs from each that you can listen to on the jukebox at www.alligator.com.
I’ve told you most of the story of cutting Dancing On The Edge with Roy Buchanan back in 1986, but there’s one more piece. At that time, Roy was raising his baby grandson as his own, after one of his children had given birth at a young age. He had composed a very moving and gentle instrumental as a gift to the child. At the end of the session, Roy performed this melodic and subtle song, weaving two carefully planned guitar parts together into a musical tapestry that he had perfectly conceived of in his imagination. Morris Jennings added some gorgeous percussion, and we all felt that it was the only possible album closer. It was named after the child–Matthew. This is a side of Roy’s music that I really love. It’s the warm, loving side of a very vulnerable man, a man who hid his intense need for love under a layer of musical bravado. It was as though Roy could give love to others much more easily than he could accept other people’s love. I’m so proud that this immensely talented man blessed Alligator with the last three albums of his career.
More next time,