Winter- Nothin' But The Blues
Original Release Date: 1977
& Vocals, Muddy Waters/Vocals, James Cotton/Harp, Pinetop
Perkins/Piano, Bob Margolin/Guitar, Charles Calmese/Bass,
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith/Drums
Tired of Tryin' (Winter)
2. TV Mama (Winter)
3. Sweet Love and Evil Women (Winter)
4. Everybody's Blues (Winter)
5. Drinkin' Blues (Winter)
6. Mad Blues (Winter)
7. It Was Rainin' (Winter)
8. Bladie Mae (Winter)
9. Walkin' Thru the Park (Waters)
Winter is the ultimate Blues machine, the ultimate solo machine,
the only white man who has the feel of the Black Blues giants
and yet at the same time plays with the dexterity of the white
guitar slinger. He sits besides Robert
Johnson and Muddy
Waters, and is simply the most innovative musician
in Blues history.
I always divide Blues roughly into two categories: White
Blues and Black Blues.
By that I don't mean a racial distinction; it is rather a
musical distinction. Blues was basically a vocal music, the
instrument i.e., the guitar, was merely an accompaniment.
The British Blues musicians changed all that in the 60's when
they extended the sometimes interminable guitar solos. But
that was only because they couldn't sing like a Black man.
Who can after all? What
is White Blues and what is Black Blues is a matter of feel.
This is not something you can explain in black and white.
The Eric Clapton during the John
Mayall period was White Blues to my ear. Eric
was playing great Blues, but no way you can say he plays like
a Black guy with the touch and feel of a Black Bluesmen. I
also doubt if you can call his singing Black either. Johnny
Winter is the only white guy that can play with such sophistication
on the guitar that one doesn't normally identify with Black
guitarists. With no disrespect, people like B.B.
King, Albert King, Elmore James tend to have a
limited repertoire when it comes to guitar licks.
Winter has been through a lot, all the ups and downs, heroin
addiction and all that jazz. He has tried Rock & Roll, Rock,
Psychedelic, anything you can name he has probably done it.
In the end, he returned to the Blues. You can say he never
really left the Blues, it was all there throughout the years
whatever music idiom he was expressing himself in. One of
the greatest aspects of Johnny's playing is his feel and the
seemingly endless licks he can produce playing the simple
Pentatonic scale. The lightning fast guitar runs of Johnny
Winter are his trademark, but the runs are nothing short of
fantastic. He can play so many notes and he is still playing
the Blues. The guitar licks of Johnny Winter are truly out
of this world. Unlike some, notably Gary
Moore and a host of others, Johnny is not a
Rock guy pretending to play the Blues. You cannot pretend,
you either are a Bluesman or you are not, and Johnny Winter
is the Blues from head to toe. He is the real thing.
But The Blues" is the ultimate statement of Johnny
Winter in Blues. In the 70's when Muddy
Waters signed up with CBD Blue Sky, the record
company had a big headache in finding someone to produce Muddy's
music. Come the hour come the man. In walk Johnny. "Nothing
But The Blues" was basically recorded with the
backing band of Muddy's band whose music Johnny was producing.
You just couldn't find a better line-up in this lifetime or
in the next. First and foremost, Johnny had Willie
"Big Eye" Smith play on drums. Willie is simply
the best Blues drummer ever. Willie never plays to the beat,
his tempo is awful, but his feel for the music and his timing
are unparalleled. You get the feeling that he is the guy leading
the band from the backseat. I could always tell if he is on
drums without having to read the credits. Then you have "Pine
Top" Perkins on piano, James
Cotton on harp. Who else can you want?
music in "Nothing But The Blues"
is rowdy, untidy, dirty and sometimes even chaotic. But this
is the Blues at its best. The guitar work and singing here
are Johnny's absolute best. The backing band is so hot it
cannot be beat. After all, these musicians are the nothing
short of the real thing; they define the Blues. Every single
track here is great. This is no B.B.'s "Three O'clock In The
Morning" or "Sweet Sixteen" kind of thing, this is nasty,
dirty down home Blues. As to his singing, I still think he
is the only white man who can sing like a Black guy. The acoustic
piece TV Mama is
really something else. If you want to hear some slide guitar
on a National Steel, check this out. Johnny's picking is out
of this world. It Was Raining
is another great track; the expression and delivery, man,
Johnny has it all.
other favourite Johnny Winter recording is "Guitar
Slinger" on Sonnet SNTCD 914. But "Nothing
But The Blues" still
comes out on top by far. It was the backing band that made
all the difference. If you really like his music, you must
get hold of some of the unofficially released materials like
show he did with Muddy Waters, James
Cotton, Willie "Big Eye" Smith at the Tower Theatre
in Philadelphia on June 3, 1977. You would also want to get
his live recording called "Midnight
Lightning" recorded live in Europe in 1984. And
don't miss "Johnny Winter Live in
Houston 1969" on the Japanese label P-Vine PCD-2198.
Winter deserves so much more fame and credit than he received.
People like the now-a-day Eric Clapton.
are selling CDs by the millions marching under the banner
of Blues, playing huge stadiums when the Johnny has been without
a record label until recently and has been playing small clubs.
Maybe that's the due you have to pay playing the Blues.