Dear Friends,

I’m writing from Fredericksburg, Virginia, where we’re starting a new album with my old friends, Saffire—The Uppity Blueswomen. They’ve got a huge batch of new songs, ranging from rollicking, brassy fun to serious social commentary, all featuring their trademark acoustic instruments and sassy vocals. Look for a February release, followed by their first major national tour in some years.

I’m thrilled by the response to Orange Blossoms, the brand new CD by JJ Grey & Mofro. Although JJ wouldn’t call himself a pure blues artist, his mix of fresh Deep South songwriting, swampy funk grooves and Memphis soul vocals speaks loud and clear to blues fans. Orange Blossoms already had the best-selling first week of any Alligator release this year. A third of JJ’s sales are by digital download, many more than by any other Alligator artist. Although I love to own CDs and still hold on to all my old vinyl, paid downloads are the future, as traditional record stores (and book and electronics stores that sell music) quickly disappear. Of course there are still good local record stores left, and I urge you to patronize them. Or you can buy from or Amazon. But the Alligator catalog is also available through most of the major downloaders and subscription services, including Itunes, Amazon’s download service, Rhapsody, HD Tracks, Music Giants, Yahoo, Zune, Puretracks, and dozens more.

If you want your blues raw, raucous, rocking and straight out of Chicago, Full Tilt by Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is the album for you. There’s plenty of what you love about Ed-—searing slide, no-holds-barred energy, lyrics that range from pure fun (like Don’t Call Me, his comment on modern electronic communication and Check My Baby’s Oil, his take on the time-honored blues automobile metaphor) to serious emotional depth (the gorgeously soulful ballad Life Got In The Way and Dying To Live, a song about the Ed’s dark past years). Ed stretches out musically more than ever before, experimenting with some funky rhythms, using horns on a few tracks, and inviting Johnny Iguana back to sit in on piano on some songs. To cap it off, there’s a joyous take on the Contours’ rock ‘n’ roll classic, First I Look At The Purse. Ed and The Blues Imperials have been a team for 20 years, and you can hear their near-telepathic communication in every track.

To hear two full songs from both Full Tilt and Orange Blossoms, go to and hit Juke Box. And go to our Goodies page for a free download from each album. And if you’re not already on our mailing list, you’re missing out on the chance to hear about upcoming gigs in your area, receive advance information on new CDs, and special offers only available to our subscribers. So hit that ‘subscribe’ button and join us!

Speaking of Lil’ Ed, in telling The Alligator Story chronologically, we’ve arrived at the amazing tale of cutting Ed’s debut, Roughhousin’. Back in late 1985, I was working on an anthology album called The New Bluebloods, to introduce ten of the best younger Chicago blues bands to the world. As with our late 1970s Living Chicago Blues series, my list of potential artists was long. But I knew I wanted a slide player, and although I hadn’t seen much of Lil’ Ed (he was only beginning to play outside the tiny West Side clubs and still worked days at the car wash), he seemed to be the right guy. I knew he idolized his uncle, J.B. Hutto, whom I used to see at Rose & Kelly’s on the South Side in the early 70s. J.B. was among my favorites, with slashing slide, great original songs, a huge voice (emanating from his small body) and wildly energetic and fun live shows. Ed looked and sounded startling like J.B. On the first day of recording for The New Bluebloods, I booked the studio for twelve hours, to record two songs each by three different bands. I brought in amps and drums to share, making for less time spent in getting the sounds together. We began by cutting excellent tracks with John Watkins (one of the great lost Chicago talents) and Dion Payton (sadly, he rarely performs any more). Finally, around 8 p.m., it was time for Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. I had no idea it would be one of the most memorable nights of my recording career.

More next time,

Bruce Iglauer