Our previews of interesting/fun local happenings.
Apr 26, 2012
09:51 AMBe There
Spree Music with J. DiDomizio: Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter doesn’t say much when we’re on the phone. He’s straightforward and direct with his thoughtful answers to each question amidst the rumble of his tour bus. While he may have said very little during his phone interview, it will not matter this weekend when he hits the stage at The Tralf. His inimitable guitar playing and articulation of the blues through his Gibson Firebird speaks volumes, earning him legendary status amongst musicians, and packed venues wherever he plays. “People pretty much know what they need to,” Winter explained, “as long as they enjoy my music, I don’t think they care about my personal life.”
Born in 1944 in Beaumont, Texas, Winter’s recording career began when he was fifteen. In 1968 he reportedly received the largest signing bonus in the recording industry, and a year later released his self-titled album Johnny Winter on Colombia Records. Through the last four decades, Winter has released nearly forty blues rock albums, and produced a number of Grammy Award winning records for legendary bluesman (and Winters idol) Muddy Waters. Not too long ago however, Winter found himself struggling with his health and substance abuse which nearly ended his career. You couldn’t tell from listening to his latest album Roots, which finds Winter playing some of the best music of his career. “He’s doing really well, his voice is stronger, his playing is stronger,” says manager and guitarist Paul Nelson, who helped Winter reclaim his form and get right back into guitar slinging. “He’s one of the players I grew up listening to,” Nelson explains, “just playing with him is fantastic.”
Roots with eleven covers of classic blues tunes originally recorded by greats like Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker, finds Winter in his comfort zone. That’s not a problem as Winter sounds like he’s having a blast applying his Texas funk, high energy style to each track, making each song his own in the process. “I listened to all the people that came before and play it my own way,” explains Winter. “I didn’t want to copy anybody,” he continues, “I tried to learn from everybody that came before me, and usually the idea is to put it my own way.” On Roots even with its impressive list of guest stars that includes Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, and John Popper, Winter crafts these classics into his own songs. He makes it look effortless too, especially during this recent performance of Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom”:
Touring in support of Roots, Winter will be making a stop at The Tralf this weekend, accompanied by Nelson, bassist Scott Spray, and drummer Vito Liuzzi, as well as filmmaker Greg Olliver, best known for his 2010 film on heavy-metal musician Lemmy Kilmister, who has been shooting a documentary on Winter. After following him for the remainder of the year, the film should be in theaters sometime in 2013. “There’s a lot more to come,” Nelson promises, explaining that there are a number of collaborations that didn’t make it onto Roots, or are waiting for schedules to free up. “It’ll be about a year before we do another record,” Winters says before a short pause, ostensibly to consider what that album might be like. “We’re probably gonna do Roots 2, cause this is working pretty well,” the legendary guitar player says. I couldn’t agree more.