Dear Friends,

I hope you’re sharing my great pleasure in seeing Barack Obama reelected. Besides believing in science and supporting equal rights for women and people of all sexual orientations, and creating a way that self-employed blues musicians can afford health insurance, he hosted the first White House Blues Festival. Whether you agree with his economic or foreign policies, his pro-blues policy deserves the support of all of us!

I want to shout out a big “well done” to the organizers of the King Biscuit Blues Festival. This annual blues blowout on the banks of the Mississippi in historic Helena, Arkansas, brings together some of the world’s finest blues and roots talent (like Bonnie Raitt, James Cotton, Taj Mahal, Bobby Rush, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and Paul Thorn) with local, regional and developing artists who rarely get this kind of festival exposure. A special nod to the organizers for spotlighting youth artists and even creating a special stage just for child audiences. This is simply a great festival with a wonderful community spirit. I urge every blues fan to attend next year.

Here at Alligator, we’ve just released our first vinyl single since the 1970s. Tommy Castro and his killer new stripped-down band, The Painkillers, have cut two brand new songs — Greedy and That’s All I Got. The energy level is high, the lyrics are up-to-the-minute and both songs feature red-hot guitar solos from Tommy. The 45 is pressed on money-green vinyl and it’s packaged in a full-color cover printed on cardboard, not paper. It’s already for sale at Tommy & The Painkillers’ gigs, at and on iTunes and Amazon’s download services. It’s been a long stretch since Tommy’s been in the studio, so this is a chance for his hordes of fans to catch up with his latest musical creations and his kickass new band.

We’re also just finishing mixes for a terrific James Cotton album, produced by the multi-talented Tom Hambridge (whose Buddy Guy and Joe Louis Walker productions have been among the best of those great artists’ careers). As he has for his over-sixty-year career, Cotton just blows the hell out of the harp. His sheer power, massive signature tone and huge energy are unmatched and undeniable; there’s just no one else like him. Cotton’s own road-tested band of Darrell Nulisch on vocals, Tom Holland on guitar, Jerry Porter on drums and Noel Neal on bass join James for some of the tunes. Some amazing, world-class guests sit in on others (more about that next time). Almost every song on the album is newly written, and James co-authored most of them, many about his own super-colorful bluesman’s life. Watch for this album (still untitled) in late winter.

And for those of you who like roots music beyond the blues, look for a new six-song EP from New Orleans’ Anders Osborne, coming soon after the first of the year. It highlights Anders’ mellower singer-songwriter side and his acoustic guitar.

I was telling you last time about A.C. Reed’s only Alligator album, I’m In The Wrong Business! As a singing/songwriting sax player, A.C. felt constantly upstaged by crowd-pleasing guitarists (and the fact that he played in the bands of Buddy Guy, Son Seals and Albert Collins didn’t make this any easier.) He was determined to create an album that would outsell those of his guitar-slinger friends. As he scraped together money for recording, he cut tracks at an inexpensive studio in Evanston, Illinois, and, while on the road with Albert Collins, at studios in Oklahoma City and Austin. He called on members of Albert’s band, including the great Casey Jones on drums, and friends like Maurice John Vaughn and Bonnie Raitt, as well as local musicians like a budding Texas guitar player named Stevie Ray Vaughan. Over a couple years, A.C. produced an album of fresh, soulful and wryly humorous songs, delivered in his laid-back voice and featuring his deeply bluesy tenor sax. Almost every song was an original, most written for the album but also including new versions of a few of his old 45s. The recording quality was uneven, but the performances showed the real depth and breadth of his talent.

More next time,

Bruce Iglauer