Friday, February 25, 2022

Archive Review: Johnny Winter’s Step Back (2014)

Johnny Winter’s Step Back
The death of blues guitarist Johnny Winter in July 2014 took us all by surprise. Sure, the man had been ailing for some time, but that didn’t stop him from touring non-stop and performing like a dervish for the audience each and every night. It seemed like he’d be with us forever, and while it’s sadly fitting that he should hang up his guitar for the last time while on the road, it did little to lessen the loss.

Before his death, Winter had all but finished up Step Back, his star-studded follow-up to 2011’s critically-acclaimed Roots set. Comprised of vintage blues and R&B songs that Winter grew up listening to as a teen in Texas, Step Back features covers of classics by artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, to name but a few. Winter was joined in the studio for his blues odyssey by such fellow fiends as Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Leslie West, Brian Setzer, and Dr. John, among other talents, the result being one of the best and most spirited albums of Winter’s lengthy career.    

Johnny Winter’s Step Back

Winter departs from his signature sound somewhat with the album-opening “Unchain My Heart.” Winter’s cover of the Ray Charles classic probably skews closer to Joe Cocker’s later version than Charles’ original hit, but he does it up right. Accompanied by the “Blues Brothers Horns,” led by trombonist Tom “Bones” Malone and saxman “Blue” Lou Malone, Winter infuses the track with a big band, R&B vibe complete with angelic female backing vocals. Winter’s voice is surprisingly smooth here, taking on a silkier feel even while his guitarwork retains its razor edge. It’s a wonderful and atypical performance that proves that, even in the latest stages of his career, Winter could still hit us with a creative curve ball.

“Can’t Hold Out (Talk To Me Baby)” is a lesser-known Elmore James track, but a blues gem nonetheless, written by Willie Dixon and recorded in 1960 for Chess Records. Winter is accompanied Ben Harper on vocals and guitar, and much as he did working with Charlie Musselwhite on the pair’s award-winning Get Up! album, Harper’s contribution perfectly complements the older bluesman’s performance. Winter is provided a chance to display his slide-guitar prowess on the raucous track, but Harper lays in a few nice licks as well. Winter is joined by Eric Clapton on a laid-back cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Don’t Want No Woman” and, as usual, when “Slowhand” is recording with and challenged by another talented guitarist, he rises to the challenge. The two guitarist’s solos are things of beauty, drenched in the blues and polished off with a soulful shine while pianist Mike DiMeo layers in some tasty honky-tonk fills in the background.

Killing Floor

Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” is a tune familiar to anybody reading this, a blues standard that has been etched in wax by everybody from Jimi Hendrix and Electric Flag to Clapton and many others. Winter’s manager and rhythm guitarist Paul Nelson is featured here, acquitting himself nicely with a lively solo that keeps the song’s momentum going nicely. Winter’s vocals are playful and energetic, not as gruff as the Wolf’s but like fresh sandpaper nonetheless. Bo Diddly’s “Who Do You Love” is required reading for any young blues-rock band, and Winter and crew bite into it like a pride of hungry old lions on a gazelle. Meredith Dimenna’s backing vocals soften Winter’s raw tones somewhat, and his greasy slide-guitar licks are highlighted by Nelson’s accompanying acoustic and electric guitars; DiMeo’s spry piano-pounding adds a little livewire electricity to the performance.

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons guest stars on a Jimmy Reed’s “Where Can You Be,” his reckless six-string sound a perfect foil to Winter’s scorched tones. The mid-tempo number sizzles and sparks like a smoldering fire, and there’s not nearly as much difference in the two men’s solos as one might think; both are short, sweet, and strong and prove that while you can take the man out of Texas, you’ll never get the Texas out of the man. Joe Bonamassa stands alongside the Blues Brothers Horns for “Sweet Sixteen,” Winter proving with his opening solo that he can channel his inner B.B. King with the best of them. With DiMeo’s Hammond organ adding color, the two men put on an instrumental clinic certain to thrill any blues guitar fanatic. Winter’s vocals are soulful, the band keeps a steady, swaying rhythmic backdrop, and the horns add accent on what is a brilliant performance.  

Son House’s Death Letter

The heart and soul of Step Back, however, is Winter’s solo performance on Son House’s mournful “Death Letter.” Accompanied only by his National steel guitar and his weary voice, Winter’s intricate guitarplay is matched by the urgency of his gritty, haunted vocals. It’s a powerful performance, and one that shows how deep the blues ran through Winter’s DNA. His cover of Little Walter’s jaunty “My Babe” is much livelier by contrast. With the band laying down a traditional Chicago blues rhythm, Winter’s vocals are matched by harpist Jason Ricci’s dancing notes. Winter’s fluid guitar solo approximates Walter’s original harmonica solos, and sounds great next to Ricci’s underrated harpwork.

As a band, Aerosmith has always worn its blues fascination on its collective sleeves, and whatever one may think of them, there’s no denying that Joe Perry is a first class stringbender – a status proven by his appearance here. Dueting on Lightnin’ Hopkins' signature tune “Mojo Hand,” the band lays down a rollicking beat on top of which Winter and Perry slap out a pair of rattletrap solos that buzz and hum with unbridled blues electricity. Step Back closes out with a fine cover of Fat Domino’s finest, “Blue Monday,” Winter joined by Dr. John, who brings a bit of New Orleans flavor to the performance, his upbeat piano playing nicely off the Blues Brothers Horns and their nuanced R&B fills.    

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Johnny Winter fans are a rabid, loyal bunch, so the Reverend’s definitely preaching to the choir; the faithful already have a copy of Step Back tucked away on their shelf. As for the rest of you, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about Mr. Winter, this is the album to tip you over to the right side. Hearing Winter hold his own with some of the best and brightest from the blues and rock worlds is impressive enough, but with Step Back the guitarist makes the argument that even if an individual man’s life is frail and finite, the blues ring eternal.

Kudos to producer Paul Nelson for capturing these fine performances on tape; to the guest musicians who brought their best to the studio; to Winter’s talented band for their spirited and supportive playing; and most of all to Mr. John Dawson Winter III, who plays guitar and sings on his final album with the same love and affection for the music that he brought to his first recording. A one of a kind talent and a charismatic performer, Winter’s death is a huge loss for the blues…but as swansongs go, you won’t find better than Winter’s Step Back. (Megaforce Records, released September 2, 2014)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Archive Review: Johnny Winter’s Still Alive and Well (1973)

Johnny Winter’s Still Alive and Well
When blues-rock guitarist Johnny Winter released his fifth studio album, Still Alive and Well, in early 1973 he’d been away from the decades’ thriving and ever-changing music scene for nearly three years. During this time, Winter had been hospitalized for heroin addiction and had already run through two bands – his original blues-rock trio and the hard rock-oriented Johnny Winter And, with Rick Derringer and members of the McCoys. While the former band had experienced some chart success with Winter’s self-titled debut album and its follow-up, Second Winter, the first Johnny Winter And album in 1970 barely charted, a relative failure partially redeemed by the band’s moderately-successful 1971 live album.

Winter put together a kind of new band for Still Alive and Well, with guitarist Derringer and bassist Randy Jo Hobbs from Johnny Winter And, and drummer Richard Hughes, who would be part of Winter’s bands for three or four years. With Derringer producing, and including guest musicians like Todd Rundgren and Mark “Moogie” Klingman (later of Rundgren’s band Utopia), Still Alive and Well was a welcome comeback album from the talented guitarist, hitting #22 on the Billboard albums chart and featuring a number of songs that Winter would perform well into his lengthy career.   

Johnny Winter’s Still Alive and Well

Still Alive and Well blows into town with a flurry of notes, Winter’s scorching intro to the well-known B.B. King hit “Rock Me Baby” leaving nothing but flames and ash behind as the singer’s roaring vocals are met by a percussive avalanche. Winter has always claimed that he wasn’t much of a singer, and while his vox here won’t be mistaken for King’s smooth-as-silk croon, there’s plenty of soul and fire riding atop the ripping guitar licks and fatback rhythms. Dan Hartman’s “Can’t You Feel It” is a similar barn-burner – dialed back a notch, perhaps, but evincing a Southern rock groove with a heart of pure blues. Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hartman was a member of Johnny’s brother Edgar’s band at the time, keeping it all in the family.

The first of two Rick Derringer-penned songs on Still Alive and Well, “Cheap Tequila” is a delightfully greasy ballad in a Rolling Stones vein, with imaginative lyrics and a country-blues vibe. The song benefits from Winter’s appropriately heartsick vocals, a big joyful chorus, and light-fingered mandolin pickin’ courtesy of Mr. Johnny which, intertwined with Derringer’s electric guitar, makes for some truly mesmerizing instrumentation. The first of Winter’s two original songs here, “Rock & Roll,” is a Texas-styled boogie-blues romp in the finest Z.Z. Top style, which means that it has plenty of electrifying slide-guitar work, stomp ‘n’ stammer percussion, and gruff vocals that barely rise above the livewire six-string rattle.

Silver Train

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Stones wrote “Silver Train” specifically for Winter, and he did a heck of a lot more with the song than the Glimmer Twins ever would. Opening with a choogling locomotive rhythm, Derringer’s slide-guitar, and “Moogie” Klingman’s honky-tonk piano-pounding, Winter’s vocals provide a curious cross between Jagger and Howlin’ Wolf, at once both growling and twangy, driven to rise above the strident, busy instrumentation. It’s a raucous performance by the entire band, and not the last to infect these grooves. By contrast, “Ain’t Nothing To Me” is a sleazy barroom ballad, a sordid tale of booze and violence that offers up Derringer’s weepy pedal steel and Winter’s wry country-western styled vocals. Why one of those bright-eyed MBAs with one of Nashville’s Music Row labels hasn’t had one of their white-bread artists cover this old-school honky-tonk treasure is a mystery to me.   

The Derringer-penned cover song was tailor-made for the Texas blues-rock guitarist, its tale of triumph and defiance sung with all the heat and energy of a revved-up jet engine. Winter’s playful, razor-sharp vocals are matched by Hughes’ relentless drumbeats and crashing cymbals, his high-flying guitar solos swooping and soaring like an F-15 Eagle in battle. “Too Much Seconal” sits at the opposite end of the musical spectrum, the jazz-blues dirge not lacking in fervor but delivered in a much more laid-back manner. Winter’s elegant slide-guitar and mandolin are met by Jeremy’s Steig’s fluid flutework, the woodwind’s notes dancing around the steel-stringed instrumentation and creating a fever dreamlike effect.

The original vinyl version of Still Alive and Well closed out with a cover of the Stones’ “Let It Bleed,” faithfully delivered by Winter and crew with a little less twang and a little heavier rock ‘n’ roll sound than the original. The 1994 CD reissue includes two bonus tracks – rowdy covers of Little Richard’s “Lucille,” which is pure juke-joint vamp with a funky, walking rhythm and scraped, trembling fretwork and Dylan’s “From A Buick Six,” which amps up the Scribe’s oblique lyrics with rattletrap instrumentation, a boogieing backbeat, and shards of rhythmic guitar. Both songs could have easily been included on the original LP, fitting in both stylistically and in the reckless energy of their performances.    

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Some 40+ years after its release, Johnny Winter’s Still Alive and Well remains the guitarist’s highest-charting, best-selling, and most critically-acclaimed work. Musically, the album runs the gamut of rock, blues, and what we’d today call alt-country, providing the listener with plenty of twangbangin’ good fun while still managing to pacify the purists with a handful of traditionally-styled blues tunes. While Winter would go on to make albums equally as great (Guitar Slinger, Third Degree, and I’m A Bluesman all come to mind), he’d never again achieve the perfect blend of roots ‘n’ blues that he did with Still Alive and Well, an essential entry in the Johnny Winter canon. (Columbia Records, released March 1973)

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Archive Review: Johnny Winter’s Roots (2011)

Johnny Winter’s Roots
It’s been seven years since guitarist Johnny Winter’s last studio album, the acclaimed 2004 set I’m A Bluesman, and better than a decade before that since the release of 1992’s Hey, Where’s Your Brother? In the interim, there has been an abundance of live albums – some more legitimate than others – as well as seven volumes of Winter’s personally-curated Live Bootleg Series collections. Health issues, business problems, and overall lack of label interest have seemed to keep the guitarist sidelined rather than in the recording studio.

For what is essentially only his second new album in nearly two decades, Winter rounded up some friends to accompany him in the studio. It’s a mark of the guitarist’s status in the blues world that he managed to bring in such talents as Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks, among others, for the recording of Roots, a straight-talking, hard-rocking collection of blues and R&B standards. With so many gifted musicians surrounding him, you’d think that Winter could leave a lot of the heavy lifting to others, but that’s not the case here – Roots is Winter’s one of the best albums of his lengthy career, the guitarist playing and singing with the same belly full of fire that he brought to his work in the 1980s.   

Johnny Winter’s Roots

Roots kicks off with the smoother-than-silk “T-Bone Shuffle,” an almost-faithful re-creation of Texas blues great T-Bone Walker’s classic tune, featuring slide-wizard Sonny Landreth’s steely playing deep in the grooves. While the performance offers one of Winter’s best vocal performances in years, the intertwined guitars rattling away above the swinging rhythm section is a thing of pure beauty. Ditto for the Elmore James by way of the Allman Brothers Band cover of James’ swaggering “Done Somebody Wrong,” which includes ABB/Gov’t Mule guitar-banger Warren Haynes laying down some greasy slide alongside Winter’s stinging, high-velocity solos.

For “Got My Mojo Workin’,” a song that the guitarist originally recorded with the great Muddy Waters, Winter is joined by harp player Frank Latorre. This is a rabble-rousing rendition of the blues classic, upbeat and rowdy with a joyous Chicago blues-styled rhythmic base, Winter’s voice and fretwork joined at the hip with Latorre’s random blasts of harp. Rhythm guitarist and long-time Winter musical foil Paul Nelson adds a lot of flavor in the background, while the spot-on bass/drums combo of Scott Spray and Vito Liuzzi keep things rolling.

Dust My Broom

Winter brings in country music superstar and frequent blues LP guest guitarist Vince Gill for a raucous take on the Chuck Berry gem “Maybellene.” With a twang-and-bang that we haven’t heard since his Still Alive and Well album, Winter and Gill swap some tasty notes as pianist Mike DiMeo channels his inner Jerry Lee Lewis with a welcome bit of reckless key-bashing. The Jimmy Reed standard “Bright Lights, Big City” is a red-hot duet between Winter and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, the two giving off sparks with their incendiary solos, smoldering vocal turns, and the song’s jazzy arrangement. By contrast, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Honky Tonky” is a throwback to the Texas coast circa 1955. The instrumental features Winter’s rattletrap guitar buzzing and dancing across the rhythms, his playing punctuated by brother Edgar’s raging saxophone, the resulting performance a welcome “cool down” after the fiery Winter/Tedeschi duet.

Winter revisits the Elmore James’ songbook with a blistering cover of the classic “Dust My Broom.” Joined by Derek Trucks on the track, the two talented instrumentalists slap more slide-guitar licks into four minutes than a fan could ever hope for, Winter’s growling, howling, playful vocals supported by ringing guitar notes. The two men have an easy chemistry, and their love of the material shines through in this stellar performance. The R&B gem “Come Back Baby” provides a classy outro to Roots, Winter’s soulful vocals accompanied by his subdued, albeit elegant fretwork and John Medeski’s chiming keyboards, a full horn section turning the performance into one worthy of the rhythm and blues revues of decades past.  

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

These sorts of patchwork albums, featuring a lot of guest musicians, are often a way to put new product on the shelf while masking the inadequacies of the name artist. Not so with Roots, Johnny Winter’s marquee status accompanied by some of the fiercest, most accomplished playing and singing of his career. Spurred on, perhaps, by the presence of so many distinguished blues and blues-rock talents, Winter rises to the challenge with an impressive performance on a slate of classic blues and R&B classics. Showing that he can still call up some fire and brimstone with his guitar, Winter knocks it out of the park with Roots. (Megaforce Records, released September 27, 2011)

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Archive Review: Tommy Keene’s Crashing the Ether (2007)

Tommy Keene’s Crashing the Ether
The Lost Highway is littered with the corpses of long-forgotten rock ‘n’ roll heroes and never-meant-to-bes. Among those hit the worst by the shrapnel of the great alt-rock explosion of the century’s last decade were the pop-rock troubadours that roamed the vinyl landscapes of the ‘80s like royalty in their own critically acclaimed kingdoms. Tragically, artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, Ben Vaughn and the subject at hand, Tommy Keene, were reduced to rags by the end of the century, begging for scraps of bread and record deals while lesser-talented but more photogenic musicians climbed aboard the “modern rock” merry-go-round. It’s a story at least as old as Emmit Rhodes, or maybe Michael Fennelly, but what are ya gonna do? You can’t fight city hall or, in this case, the major labels.

Tommy Keene’s tenth solo release in a double-dozen years finds the singer/songwriter still tilting at windmills in a war we lost a long time ago. Regardless, Crashing the Ether should be required listening for fans of the genre, i.e. music made for the brain with pop smarts, rock ‘n’ roll brawn and lots of spiffy six-string work. Keene’s lyrics have seldom been more focused, his melodies more infectious, or his guitar playing more devastating. Keene’s radio-friendly hooks and undeniable sense of pop-rock history are framed by warm vocals and thick instrumentation.

Recorded in his home studio with no empty suits looking over his shoulder and interfering with a creative process they know nothing about, Keene took his time to construct some of the best work of his lengthy cult-fave career. Songs like “Warren In The ‘60s,” “Eyes of Youth” and “Alta Loma” simply shimmer and shake, possessed by an undiluted rock ‘n’ roll spirit. There’s nary a cut here that wouldn’t sound great blasting out of your car stereo, or maybe your iPod earbuds, so put down that trendy new indie rock band-of-the-week and dig up a copy of Crashing the Ether. It’s well worth your time and the effort to do so... (Eleven Thirty Records, released January 30th, 2007)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ zine

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Friday, February 4, 2022

Archive Review: Alan Wilson's The Blind Owl (2013)

Alan Wilson’s The Blind Owl
Formed by Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite in 1966 in Los Angeles, Canned Heat was one of the seminal blues-rock outfits of the 1960s and ‘70s. Contemporaries of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and preceding the Allman Brothers Band by a couple of years, Canned Heat’s signature sound skewed more toward John Lee Hooker’s boogie-blues than either the Allman’s Southern soul roots or Butterfield’s rocked-up Chicago blues sound.

Canned Heat fused its founders’ love of classic Delta and Chicago blues music with the new highly-amped electric blues of the late 1960s, the band helping bring the music of the giants of the blues to an eager, enthusiastic white rock ‘n’ roll audience. Essential to Canned Heat’s early success was Alan Wilson, the band’s shy, visually-impaired singer and guitarist whose reedy, Skip James-styled vocals, vibrant harp playing, underrated fretwork, and deep knowledge of and love for the blues helped shaped the band’s trademark sound. Aside from being a talented musician, Wilson was also a musical historian and fanatical record collector, his deeply-researched essays on artist like House and Robert Pete Williams widely acclaimed as scholarly works.   

Alan Wilson’s The Blind Owl

Although Canned Heat carries on today as a mere shadow of the original band, they were never really the same after the loss of Wilson in 1970 to a drug overdose at the age of 27. Alan Wilson seldom gets his due as the influential musician that he was, a talent who played alongside legends like Son House, John Lee Hooker, and Sunnyland Slim, among others. After listening to The Blind Owl, a twenty-track, two-disc career retrospective that revisits Wilson’s musical legacy, one is forced to reconsider the artist’s importance in the scheme of things. After all, this is the guy that helped House “re-learn” how to play his songs when the Delta bluesman was rediscovered during the early 1960s folk-blues boom, a task that earned him a place on stage alongside the equally reluctant blues legend at the Newport Folk Festival.

Wilson was a humble and unassuming talent that reveled in the sheer joy of music-making, finding a solace in the blues that he was unable to find in the real world. The Blind Owl draws the bulk of its material from the five Canned Heat albums recorded between 1967 and 1970, with a handful of rare singles and obscure tracks mixed in. Appropriately enough, The Blind Owl opens with “On The Road Again,” one of Wilson’s two biggest and best-known hits. Fueled by Wilson’s mournful vocals, squalls of harp, and choogling guitar riffs, the song’s unusual vibe and slinky groove would drive the band’s sophomore album Boogie With Canned Heat to number sixteen on the charts, the song becoming a worldwide hit and a staple of FM rock stations across the U.S.

Going Up The Country

Ditto for Wilson’s “Going Up The Country,” from 1968’s Living With The Blues, another Top Ten hit which became the soundtrack for the Woodstock Nation after the band’s energetic performance at the legendary festival, and their subsequent appearance in the Woodstock documentary film. With an upbeat melody “borrowed” from a Henry Thomas blues tune, and fresh anti-Vietnam war lyrics from Wilson, the song’s relentless boogie rhythm was punctuated by Wilson’s laid-back harp play. With the blockbuster hits out of the way, one can concentrate on the less well-known but equally magnificent (or more so) musical moments on The Blind Owl. Wilson’s “An Owl Song,” for instance, is a lively sort of jump-blues that features Dr. John’s raging honky-tonk piano-playing and some tasteful harpwork.

An inspired cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s rockin’ “Help Me” was Wilson’s debut as a vocalist and a fine…if tentative…first turn at the microphone taken from the band’s self-titled 1967 debut, while the introspective “My Mistake,” Wilson’s first lyrical stab at wrestling with his own shyness and insecurity, features an emotional vocal performance matched with guitarist Henry “Sunflower” Vestine’s stinging, trembling fretwork. Wilson’s “Get Off My Back” is another personal composition, the anti-authoritarian lyrics masked by the singer’s light-hearted vocals and Vestine’s rockabilly-cum-psychedelic lightning bolts.

Shake It And Break It

Canned Heat Future Blues ad
Taken from Wilson’s last album with the band, 1970’s Future Blues, “Shake It And Break It” was adapted from a Charley Patton song, the upbeat, breakneck country-blues tune dancing dangerously close to ragtime territory with its gymnastic vocals and spry fretwork courtesy new Canned Heat guitarist Harvey “The Snake” Mandrel. Wilson’s “My Time Ain’t Long” was certainly informed by Son House’s “Death Letter,” the songwriter addressing his own growing depression with ominous, apocalyptic lyrics and a dark-hued arrangement straight from the Delta blues playbook. The vaguely menacing “London Blues” offers a fine example of Wilson’s slide-guitar prowess, his serpentine licks riding hard and fast alongside Mandel’s own red-hot guitar as Dr. John delivers his best Otis Spann-inspired piano-play.

The rare 1969 single “Poor Moon” provides a glimpse at Wilson’s environmental concerns and activism with its intelligent lyricism, while an obscure cover of Little Walter Jacob’s “Mean Old World,” recorded in 1967 but unreleased until 1994 as part of a Canned Heat “best of” album, displays Wilson’s amazing harp skills as he builds upon Jacobs’ original instrumentation with some imaginative flourishes and engaging tones of his own. “Human Condition” was Wilson’s final studio recording with Canned Heat, another obscurity from the archives, a musically upbeat but lyrical downer where Wilson’s growing despondence can be heard in the cracks and strains in his voice, while the band’s relentless, endless guitar-driven boogie drones on behind his pain. The instrumental “Childhood’s End” focuses on Wilson’s chromatic harp playing, the song’s emotional undertones bolstered by a droning guitar line that reinforces Wilson’s smothering loneliness.           

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Produced by Skip Taylor (the band’s manager and 1970s-era producer) and Canned Heat drummer Adolfo De La Perra, The Blind Owl presents a fine argument for Alan Wilson’s musical legacy. Choosing songs that were written by and/or sung by Wilson and/or feature his instrumentation at the fore, they place the spotlight firmly on Wilson’s talents as a vocalist, world class harmonica master, and underrated rhythm and slide-guitar player.  

My only complaint about The Blind Owl is the lack of material from Wilson’s extracurricular activities – certainly a song or two from Hooker ‘n Heat, the band’s acclaimed 1971 collaboration with the legendary John Lee Hooker, would have been available as the album was released by Canned Heat’s label, or maybe something from Son House’s 1965 album The Legendary Son House: Father of the Folk Blues which featured Wilson playing alongside the Delta legend. This minor cavil aside, The Blind Owl is an amazing tribute to a bona fide blues legend in Alan Wilson, as well as a fine introduction to the often-overlooked blues-rock style of Canned Heat. (Severn Records, released April 16, 2013)

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