I’m writing from Dallas, where I’m helping Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King cut their second Alligator album. Being part of the creative process is my greatest pleasure, and I’m always honored when the artists ask me to be involved in the production. Joe and Bnois have written some great new songs for this project, and their guitar interplay is as amazing and telepathic as ever. I’ll tell you more next time.
Just before leaving Chicago, I mastered our upcoming Guitar Shorty CD, Bare Knuckle. Shorty has delivered another collection of raw, contemporary, hard-edged blues with gritty vocals and his signature wild, unpredictable and rocking guitar playing. As with his previous disc, We The People, Shorty not only sings about standard blues topics (men and women), but also about up-to-the minute themes like the economy and the plight of returning veterans. Bare Knuckle shows why Guitar Shorty has earned such a devoted following among blues fans everywhere. It’s full of unvarnished, raw blues passion, energy and intensity. Shorty’s album will be released in early March, along with The Holmes Brothers’ deeply emotional and stirring new record, Feed My Soul.
We’re thrilled to have 14 nominations for this year’s Blues Music Awards, including a nomination for Janiva Magness as Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year. Her April Gator release has just been completed, and I think it’s even better than her last one, What Love Will Do. Of course, for more news of all things Alligator, as well as being informed about upcoming live shows in your area, please subscribe to our mailing list at www.alligator.com. And I’ve restarted my “Bruce’s Blog” on the web site, so you can read more of my insightful thoughts (well, my thoughts).
Last time, I was telling you about recording Lonnie Brooks’ 1986 album, Wound Up Tight, our fourth by one of Alligator’s (and the blues’) iconic singers, players and songwriters. Of course Lonnie wrote a whole batch of brand new songs, combining his tough, Chicago attack with his patented “voodoo blues” bayou rhythms and memorable and sometimes funny lyrics. The core musicians came from Lonnie’s road band, one of the best in the city. Keyboardist Tom Giblin and drummer Jimi Schutte had been with him for years, and they knew his every move. Bass ace Noel Neal (Kenny’s brother) joined us, as Lonnie was in the process of changing bass players at the time.
Back in the 1950s, when Lonnie was called Guitar Junior and was a rock ‘n’ roll star on the Gulf Coast, a young guitarist from Beaumont named Johnny Winter idolized him, and came to some of Lonnie’s recording sessions for the Goldband label, just to watch and learn. As it happened, Johnny was in town during the Wound Up Tight sessions (working on his 3rd Degree album) and wanted to sit in with his old idol. We managed to schedule both Lonnie and Johnny on the same night at Streeterville Studios, so Johnny just had to stroll down the hall to the other studio, greet Lonnie, and plug in. Lonnie had chosen two songs for Johnny to jam on–Got Lucky Last Night, a new Lonnie original that was inspired by his ‘50s classic, The Crawl, and Wound Up Tight, a grinder slow blues that gave Johnny a chance to whip out his slide and soar. With the older master and his brilliant student sitting side by side, grinning at each other, the sparks flew. You can hear just how much fun they were having.
The rest of Wound Up Tight is full of swampy gems like Jealous Man and Hush Mouth Money (perhaps the funniest song about blackmail ever), romping shuffles like Bewitched (not the TV theme), tough blues like Belly Rubbin’ Music, two deep soul ballads, Skid Row and End Of The Rope, and a guest appearance by one of the unheralded heroes of blues harmonica, Jim Liban. All in all, it’s one of Lonnie’s most satisfying albums, and a great introduction to a blues legend.
More next time,