As the new year kicks in, we’re busy planning Alligator’s exciting releases for 2013. I told you last time about our new Tommy Castro 45, Greedy/That’s All I Got, which is of course available at www.alligator.com. Tommy is writing songs right now for a full album that we hope will be ready before the end of the year. I also mentioned our just-released Anders Osborne EP, Three Free Amigos. This six-song mini-album features the more laid-back, semi-acoustic side of Anders’ music, rather than the intensely passionate electric guitar-driven performances that have been the centerpieces of his other two Alligator releases. Three Free Amigos isn’t blues, but if you’re as fascinated by this multi-faceted artist as we are, you might just love it. Take a listen on our jukebox at alligator.com.
At Alligator, we’re always thrilled to introduce a new artist to the blues world. Next month we’ll release our debut by young soul singer/songwriter/guitarist Jesse Dee, entitled On My Mind / In My Heart. Jesse hails from Boston and grew up on the classic soul sounds. He’s taken that inspiration and written a batch of instantly memorable, joyful tunes that just make me want to smile. Jesse’s music is in the tradition of 1960s urban R&B masters like Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, Chuck Jackson and the young Marvin Gaye, but filled with his own distinctive melodies, memorable lyrics, soaring voice and buoyant personality. The horns strut, the guitars pounce and the grooves make you want to move. Like early Motown, his songs are unabashedly hopeful and often romantic; he’s a man who believes in the power and resilience of love. Like his in-spirations, Jesse Dee creates seriously emotional soul music that’s also loads of fun.
Later in the spring, we’ll be presenting a brand new album from Mr. Superharp himself, James Cotton. Since I told you about this in the last issue, guests like Delbert McClinton, Keb Mo, Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa have contributed to the album, and a few more friends and fans of James’ are waiting to add their voices as well. But the center of the record is of course that phenomenally powerful harmonica with the huge tone, full of true blues feeling. You can hear some of the licks of James’ teacher from his youth in Mississippi, Sonny Boy Williamson. And you can hear phrasing and attack inspired by the singing of his friend and former boss, Muddy Waters. But the unmistakable sound is James Cotton’s alone. At the age of 78, his power and soul are undiminished. We’re so proud to have him on Alligator.
Last time, I began telling the story of I’m In The Wrong Business!, the only Alligator album by the great blues sax player, singer and songwriter A.C. Reed. The eleven original performances were all recorded by A.C. at his own expense before he brought the album to me for possible release on Alligator. He had cut them in cheap studios, but the performances, including guest appearances by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bonnie Raitt, were simply terrific. One reason was that A.C. was one of the blues’ most underappreciated songwriters. His tongue-in-cheek sense of humor made tunes like Fast Food Annie, Don’t Drive Drunk (containing what is perhaps the first rap section in a blues tune, performed by Maurice John Vaughn) and the title track into instant classics. A.C.’s more serious songs included some of the bluesiest sax playing you’d ever want to hear, and his drawling vocals delivered the songs with the perfect after hours feel (perhaps fueled by his favorite drink, scotch and milk). When he brought the album to me, I immediately wanted to release it on Alligator, but some of the sounds of the recording just weren’t as good as the performances. This was especially true of Casey Jones’ snare drum, which sounded like a cardboard box on a lot of the tracks. In those pre-computer days, the only way to fix it was to somehow re-record every snare drum hit, one at a time. Luckily, Casey’s drums were beautifully recorded for Showdown!, our Grammy-winning album by Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. So the poor assistant engineer spent days painstakingly replacing the cardboard box sounds with Casey’s real drum sounds, to bring the album up to Alligator standards.
More next time,