Dear Friends,

I’m very excited to announce two brand new Alligator signings, both artists who have earned their rightful places in the top ranks of the blues world. Joe Louis Walker’s searing Alligator debut, appropriately entitled Hellfire, will be released at the end of January. And later in the spring, we’ll celebrate the first Gator album by the powerhouse veteran soul man Curtis Salgado.

For decades I’ve thought that Joe Louis Walker, with his passionate vocals, amazing guitar talent and incisive songwriting, should be considered one of today’s true blues giants, in the same category as B.B. or Buddy. I’ve been a fan of his ever since I first heard him play as a sideman in a small club in San Francisco. Over his long career, he’s cut many terrific albums, but Joe calls Hellfire his most deeply soulful and hardest rocking album ever–and that’s saying a lot! Joe’s blues education came from playing with some of the all-time greats, like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Albert King and Ike Turner. He not only learned an arsenal of guitar licks that cover a huge spectrum of the blues tradition (including some super slide playing), but he also absorbed a world of blues knowledge and wisdom from the older masters. You can hear it all in his gospel-tinged singing and the power of his lyrics. Hellfire was produced by Tom Hambridge, who piloted Buddy Guy’s recent Grammy-winning albums. As he did with Buddy, Tom has helped Joe create some of his best music ever.

Curtis Salgado is undeniably one of the best soul/R&B singers anywhere, plus he’s a world class harmonica player. He’s honed his voice and harp for over 40 years, both as a member of the original Robert Cray Band and as leader of his own band. As many of you know, Curtis has been through lots of adversity, and his tough times have made his music that much stronger, richer and more moving. I’ll tell you about his upcoming Alligator album next time.

I couldn’t write for the December issue of Living Blues without mentioning two of the best Christmas presents for any blues fan–our Alligator Records Christmas Collection and Alligator Records’ Genuine Houserockin’ Christmas. Both CDs are full of bluesy holiday joy, with tracks from many of our classic artists recorded especially for these albums. They’re available at all the major online retailers, and very specially priced at, where you can also find other perfect holiday gifts. And don’t forget gifts for the most deserving blues fan of all–yourself!

For a lot of years I’ve been telling you about the making of Alligator’s albums. It’s clear that I’ll never be caught up if I keep on in such detail. So I’ll only spend a short time recounting the recording of Koko Taylor’s only live album, Live From Chicago—-An Audience With The Queen. It was cut in January, 1987 at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois, a club that every fan of blues and roots music should know and love. The club prides itself on its excellent sound system and musician-friendly management, so everyone loves playing there. When Koko Taylor and her Blues Machine band were booked for two nights, we decided it was a perfect time to make the live record Koko and I had discussed for years. One major reason was that this was a particularly great incarnation of The Blues Machine. The two secret weapons were lead guitarist Michael Robinson and Koko’s longtime bass player Jerry Murphy. As good as other band members over the years have been, these two musicians had a special chemistry with Koko. Jerry had an instinctive understanding of Koko’s rhythm sense, and the whole band would lock on to his groove. Maybe he played so well for her because, like many of the musicians who passed through her band, he had become like another son to Koko. Michael Robinson was a six-string dynamo who could rock out with the best of them, but was equally able to lay down spare, raw down-home blues with real feeling. Inspired by this great band, Koko delivered what she knew how to do best, pouring her legendary energy, power and a lifetime of blues experience into her classic tunes plus a couple of surprise choices.

More next time,

Bruce Iglauer