Happy New Year! I’m sure hoping 2008 will be a good year for the blues; we lost way too many of our elder statesman in 2007. Our first piece of good news for 2008 is that our very own Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, has been nominated for a Grammy for her latest album, Old School. This album was such a wonderful blessing, considering that it seemed almost impossible to believe that she would be capable of getting back into the studio, or onto the stage, after her 2003/2004 health crisis. Koko and I are both immensely proud of Old School, and many critics have hailed it as the best album of her career.
As I told you, we’ve got some hot new releases ready for the new year. By the time you read this, Roomful Of Blues’ Raisin’ A Ruckus and Eric Lindell’s Low On Cash, Rich In Love will be available. If you haven’t already checked out some sample cuts on our online jukebox at www.alligator.com, this would be a great time to listen.
On March 4th, we’ll be releasing two Alligator debuts by artists who have already earned thousands of loyal fans. The red hot team of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King have been playing together for almost 20 years, mixing Joe’s thrilling Texas blues/rock guitar with Bnois’ soulful vocals and incisive, understated playing. Together, they’ve carved a unique niche in the blues world, taking their double-threat pairing to stages all over the world. Blood Brothers is their first Alligator recording, cut in Dallas with just their road-tested rhythm section of Paul Jenkins and Dave Konstantin and guest keyboardist John Street. It’s over an hour of tough blues with 13 fresh, new originals plus a brilliant reading of Lightnin’ Hopkins obscure Stop Drinking. Whether it’s a balls-to-the-wall rocker or an intense slow blues, Joe and Bnois play as though they’re telepathically connected, and Bnois delivers his best singing on record ever.
Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater came up on Chicago’s hardscrabble West Side, sharing stages with his friends Freddie King, Otis Rush, Luther Allison and Magic Sam. He’s been recording since the 1950s, cutting singles and albums that combine the tough West Side guitar sound with his other musical passions—old school rock ‘n’ roll, swampy rockabilly, even a taste of gospel. Last year, Eddy went into the studio with one of the hottest young guns on the blues scene, Ronnie Baker Brooks, acting as producer. Backed by Ronnie’s hard-rocking band, Eddy delivered the most energized musical party of his long career. Joining him for the festivities are his old friends Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy Johnson, Otis Clay and Billy Branch. Besides some of Eddy’s best guitar playing on record ever, the record also features some of Ronnie’s blazing axe-slinging. Celebrating Eddy’s home turf, we named the album West Side Strut.
I think I’ve told you enough about cutting Roy Buchanan’s second Alligator release, Dancing On The Edge. That same year, 1986, we brought Johnny Winter back into the studio to record his third Gator album. I’m glad to be writing about this now, because Johnny is in the midst of a major comeback. With his health much improved, Johnny has been burning up stages all across the country, including a fiery performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads concert this summer that many of you have seen on public TV. Back in ’86, Johnny was Alligator’s best-selling and most popular artist. His first two Alligator albums, Guitar Slinger and Serious Business (which Johnny, Dick Shurman and I had produced together) had hailed Johnny’s return to hard blues after becoming one of rock’s true guitar heroes. But while we were making Serious Business, Johnny and I had some arguments and tension working together. So we all decided the smart thing was for me to step back and let Dick and Johnny work together, with me acting as more of executive producer. Johnny and Dick created a masterpiece called 3rd Degree, perhaps Johnny’s best Alligator release, ranging from wild electric slide to deep Delta National steel solo songs, and a reunion of Johnny’s original Texas trio.
More next time,