Dear Friends,

We won! For the first time since the 1980s, an Alligator release is a Grammy winner. Buckwheat Zydeco’s Lay Your Burden Down won as (what else) the Best Zydeco or Cajun Recording. It’s a great affirmation of Buckwheat’s 30 years of leading this wonderful band and taking his South Louisiana music worldwide. Lay Your Burden Down is Buckwheat’s most visionary and groundbreaking album, with exciting production by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and guest appearances by Sonny Landreth, Trombone Shorty, JJ Grey and Warren Haynes. If you haven’t heard it, tracks are available for listening at; click on ‘jukebox.’ This is zydeco that any blues fan will enjoy.

We’ve just released Feed My Soul by roots masters The Holmes Brothers and Bare Knuckle by the legendary axe giant Guitar Shorty. Both have been heralded as their best records; who am I to disagree? We have a cool video of the Holmes Brothers talking about what inspired the new CD on the Feed My Soul page at The band and producer Joan Osborne talk about their careers and this soulful new recording.

In April, we’ll be shipping a brand new album from the winner of the Blues Music Award for “B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year” – Janiva Magness. It’s called The Devil Is An Angel Too and it’s the deepest statement yet from this intensely emotional and subtle singer. Janiva has one foot in the blues and one in Memphis soul. Her song choices here — from sources like Joe Tex, Ann Peebles and Nina Simone — give her marvelous voice a chance to shine. The arrangements around her are challenging and fresh, and Zach Zunis’ guitar work is a treat. One reason I signed Janiva is that she’s continued to grow as an artist, bringing new depths of meaning to every song she sings. If you’ve enjoyed her charismatic live shows, or liked her previous Alligator release, What Love Will Do, I guarantee that The Devil Is An Angel Too will be one of your 2010 favorites.

Along with Janiva’s new one, we’re releasing an album that’s a bit of a departure for us. It’s American Patchwork, by New Orleans singer/guitarist/writer Anders Osborne. Anders is a profoundly passionate artist whose music is rooted in the blues, but also goes in rock and Americana directions. Like his home city, he’s recovered from some dark times, and the album is filled with the joy of a man who is rebuilding his life and career. As he says, “This is the healing, the patching back together of a man…broken and in pieces. The rebuilding of my home, a city under water and in ruins.” Anders has been described by Paste Magazine as having an “impossibly great and soulful voice, with the songs to match.” And his guitar playing (with some riveting slide work) is astounding. Check out some songs on our jukebox at the Alligator web site.

And, as I told you last time, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, the titans of Texas rocking blues, have been hard at work on a new album full of original songs. Have Blues, Will Travel will be released on May 25. I’ll tell you more about it next time.

Now I can start reminiscing about the making of Cold Snap, the last and perhaps best Alligator album from The Master Of The Telecaster, Albert Collins. By 1986, Albert was among our most popular artists. He was on the road almost constantly, slinging that searing, icy-hot guitar and singing in his wry, humor-filled voice. He was touring all over the world, from Europe to Australia to Japan. Albert had been nominated for a Grammy for Showdown!, the immortal album that paired him with his disciples, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. My co-producer Dick Shurman and I wanted to please Albert by fulfilling his lifelong dream of recording with one of his great inspirations, the funky jazz organist Jimmy McGriff. Jimmy had been a hero to Albert for decades. They had known each other when Albert lived in Kansas City, and Albert had picked up a slew of melodic and phrasing ideas from Jimmy, including the unusual way Albert “comped” behind other musicians’ solos, a signature part of Albert’s unique, personal sound.

More next time,

Bruce Iglauer