One of my great joys is being in the audience when one of Alligator’s artists delivers a thrilling, charismatic performance. The last few weeks have given me a chance to have this wonderful experience multiple times. In June, young Selwyn Birchwood and his band delivered a kickass set at the Chicago Blues Festival, getting literally thousands of fans on their feet with songs from his Gator debut, Don’t Call No Ambulance. Tommy Castro & The Painkillers totally rocked Quebec’s Festival International du Blues de Tremblant with tunes from The Devil You Know. Jarekus Singleton burned up the stage with originals from his Refuse To Lose album at the same festival, winning a whole slew of instant fans (who sang “Happy Birthday” to him in French for his 30th birthday). Then he drove all night (with me as co-pilot) to open the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Maine and get another audience on their feet. And to close the North Atlantic Festival, Joe Louis Walker delivered a searing set drawn from Hornet’s Nest and Hellfire, proving why he deserved his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame last year. Joe is a great guitarist and also one of the deepest blues vocalists anywhere. Imagine how good I felt as each musician was introduced as “Alligator Recording Artist…”
Speaking of live performances, anyone who has seen Rick Estrin & The Nightcats rip it up on stage certainly will remember their performance forever. Man for man, this is one of the very strongest bands in the blues. With Rick’s brilliant harmonica playing, streetwise vocals and unforgettable original tunes, Kid Andersen’s guitar playing that ranges from the toughest traditional blues to solos that meld blues with surf, punk, rockabilly and undefinable wild musical excursions, J. Hansen’s super drumming and clever songwriting and Lorenzo Farrell’s funky keyboards and rock-solid bass, these guys just can’t be beat. That’s why they’ve become one of Alligator’s most in-demand live bands. And that’s why, every night, fans have been coming up to them asking, “When are you guys releasing a live album?” Well, it’s finally happened. We’ve just released You Asked For It…Live!, an album that captures all the energy, astounding musicianship, personality and humor of Rick Estrin & The Nightcats. With over an hour of music, featuring tough live versions of Rick’s most-requested compositions, a new J. Hansen tune, and a couple of Nightcat-ized classics, this is a live album you’ll want to listen to over and over. Of course, as with any Alligator release, you can go to www.alligator.com and listen to tracks on our jukebox. And don’t forget to hit “Join” and sign up for our email list at the same time, so you can find out when Rick & The Nightcats and every other Alligator artist is coming your way.
But wait, there’s more! Our old friend Elvin Bishop has returned to Alligator! In mid-August, look for Can’t Even Do Wrong Right, a brand new recording featuring five freshly minted Elvin originals, his ‘so loose it’s tight’ veteran touring band and guest appearances by harmonica wizard Charlie Musselwhite and vocalist Mickey Thomas (the soulful singer you’ll remember from Elvin’s 70s hit Fooled Around And Fell In Love). As with all of Elvin’s music, Can’t Even Do Wrong Right is instantly smile-inducing. Plus, there’s an hilarious “caught with your pants down” cover by Paul Thorn.
I’ve spent so much time recently telling you what’s happening now at Alligator that I haven’t had space for my normal reminiscing. I’ll try to get back in the groove now: In the midst of the freezing cold winter of 1987-88, I was skidding my car down the alley behind the Alligator headquarters when I almost hit a pedestrian bundled up against the cold. I recognized Corky Siegel, the co-leader of Chicago’s beloved Siegel-Schwall Band, who had formed in the mid-1960s and had been one of the first “blues revival” groups recorded. Although their less heavily electrified sound hadn’t won them the bigger audiences that The Paul Butterfield Band or the British groups had, they had toured the country, played the Fillmore, and even recorded with Seiji Ozawa and the San Francisco Symphony. During the 70s, The Siegel-Schwall Band had played a years-long weekly residency at Chicago’s Quiet Knight club. I offered Corky a ride and discovered that he lived only a couple blocks from me in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. As we rode, Corky told me about a recent Siegel-Schwall concert and radio broadcast.
More next time,