It’s been an exciting and busy summer here at Alligator, with The Holmes Brothers, Tommy Castro and Joe Louis Walker all in the studio working on new projects. Anders Osborne, the New Orleans musical visionary, has just released a brand new Alligator album called Peace. Like all of Anders’ recordings, it’s an intensely personal roots music journey. Peace ranges from wrenching electrified outcries about urban violence to gentle acoustic ballads about redemption. I wouldn’t call Anders a blues artist, but his music lives on the same emotional edge as the rawest blues. I urge you to go to our jukebox at www.alligator.com and listen for yourselves. I think you’ll be moved.
Our new Holmes Brothers album, Brotherhood, will be released in Europe at the end of October, just in time for this wonderful band’s tour dates in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the Netherlands. This is our fifth album by the group, and, speaking as a hardcore blues fan, it’s my favorite. The Holmes Brothers bring their amazing voices and gloriously rough-edged playing to every song they record. Their normal repertoire embraces not only blues, but old school R&B, Americana, gospel and even country. For brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes and their brother-in-spirit, Popsy Dixon, all these styles of music are part of the same fabric. With Brotherhood, they have focused on the blues. Wendell’s soulful tenor vocals and wildly unpredictable guitar playing, Sherman’s deep baritone singing and idiosyncratic electric bass, and Popsy’s swooping falsetto voice and imaginative, personal drumming style all unite to deliver a sound that’s entirely their own. And when their voices join together to sing in their thrilling, gospel-infused harmony, it’s magic. For Brotherhood, the Holmes’ created eight new originals and made inspired choices of covers by the likes of Ike Turner, Ted Hawkins, Booker T. Jones and William Bell. The new album will be available in the U.S. and Canada early in 2014, just in time for the band’s Spring touring.
Lonnie Brooks is one of today’s major bluesmen but he’s never gotten as much acclaim as he deserves. He’s one of the blues’ most exciting and powerful artists, and his huge body of fresh, original songs equals that of the best blues writers of his generation. When I came to Chicago, Lonnie was a major draw in the West Side clubs, and regularly packed the Avenue Lounge, a big, rough joint on West Madison Street. In those days, he was mostly playing R&B jukebox favorites, but even on other peoples’ songs, his hip-shaking grooves, huge, Memphis soul-infused voice and biting guitar work were uniquely his own. Lonnie had cut swampy, proto-rock ‘n’ roll 45s back in Louisiana and East Texas before he moved to Chicago in the early 1960s, and he continued recording blues and R&B singles after he got here, even cutting an album for the Capitol label under his old Gulf Coast stage name, “Guitar Junior.” But it was during the 1970s that he began to inject his bayou blues roots into his music, developing a signature sound, with unexpected chord changes, ultra-confident, funky solos and a whole slew of terrific new songs. Some of his lyrics told tales of mojos and magic spells in his native Louisiana, earning him the nickname “The Voodoo Daddy.”
On the strength of the four songs he cut for our Living Chicago Blues series in 1978, we signed Lonnie and recorded four powerful studio albums between 1979 and 1986. But, like so many blues artists, Lonnie was often at his most exciting in live performance. So, in 1987, I decided that it was time for us to capture his live energy on record. Lonnie had one of his best bands, with Tom Giblin on keyboards, Osee Anderson on second guitar, Lafayette Lyle on bass and Jimi Schutte on drums. They were tearing up club and festival stages. Plus, at the end of each night’s performance, Lonnie’s talented 20-year-old son Ronnie would join in. We were just beginning to realize that he would turn into the major artist he is today.
I booked the band at B.L.U.E.S., Etc., the big club on Chicago’s Belmont Ave., for three nights in November, 1987, and Lonnie began choosing and rehearsing the perfect songs for a great live album.
More next time,