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Johnny Winter- Nothin' But The Blues
Original Release Date: 1977

Johnny Winter/Guitar & Vocals, Muddy Waters/Vocals, James Cotton/Harp, Pinetop Perkins/Piano, Bob Margolin/Guitar, Charles Calmese/Bass, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith/Drums

1. 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)

Review (by Tommy Chung)
Johnny 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.

Johnny 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.

"Nothing 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?

The 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.

My 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.

Johnny Winter deserves so much more fame and credit than he received. People like the now-a-day Eric Clapton. Gary Moore 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.

Extended Listening

-Muddy Waters- Hard Again

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