Johnny Winter Sets New 'Roots' Album With Eric Clapton, Joe Perry, Ben Harper

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Johnny Winter performs onstage at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on January 10, 2012 in New York City.

Eric Clapton, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Ben Harper, Mark Knopfler, Joe Perry and Dr. John are among the guests on the second edition of classic blues covers coming from legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter.

The follow-up to his 2011 album "Roots," Winter's manager-guitarist Paul Nelson finished mixing part two prior to heading to South By Southwest in Austin where a documentary on Winter premiered, the Texas guitarist sat in with Jimmy Kimmel's band and performed a showcase of his own. Megaforce/Sony will again release the album, most likely in June or July; the plan is for Winter to ultimately do four editions of "Roots." 

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"We started this series of traditional songs that Johnny grew up on -- I knew it was an easy formula for him to digest," says Nelson, who has been in Winter's band for eight years and managing him for six. "He was happy to do this and it fueled his need to do this, relearn songs from the past. It was educational."

Winter turned 70 in February, celebrating with a New York performance and Sony Legacy's release of a four-CD box set "True to the Blues." The film and Winter-branded products such as hot sauce and barbecue sauce will be released as part of his seven-decade celebration as he tours about 100 to 140 dates a year.

The documentary, "Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty," openly details the demons of Winter's youth in Beaumont, Texas, and his battles with drugs as director Greg Olliver ("Lemmy") captures him in 2010 as he is being weaned off Methadone. Future screenings are in the works. Nelson executive produced the film.

"This movie gives fans an explanation of what was wrong," Nelson says, noting that Winter spent years going through the motions and needed to become more self-sufficient in life and as a musician. "A lot of the times (in films) you see guys go from success to pits of hell and back up. For the sake of the movie, you wonder if they're going to fall off the wagon. You can see Johnny get healthier through the course of the movie. He's a little slow because of the OCD, but its more than just a music show. It's VH1 Behind the Music, but with a PBS twist."

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The idea for filming Winter on the road was an idea hatched so Neal could send footage to Winter's doctors while they were getting him off drugs and helping him deal with his OCD. Winter is indeed a man of habit and backstage at the Long Center in Austin where "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" was taping, Winter killed time watching episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "Happy Days," two of the countless shows they bring on the road to allow him to keep to his schedule.

Once he took the stage at the SXSW showcase, Winter and the Kimmel band performed segments of "Johnny B. Goode," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Tore Down" and "Highway 61 Revisited"; the night before, he performed "Johnny B. Goode," "Bonie Maronie" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," saving his slide for the very end.

"I like playing songs from when I was first getting into music," Winter says. "That's just fun to do those songs, lot of good memories."

Winter, as the film explains, has become progressively more engaged in interviews over the last fur or five years, speaking in sentences and even paragraphs after years of delivering one word answers that frustrated most interviewers. The "Roots" project has him focused on the classics that inspired by Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Elmore James.

"Songs mostly from the '50s," he says of "Roots 2," "and a lot of guests. If there's good people, other good musicians, people enjoy it. I just love it."

He adds, "It's just to bring it to the people of today who haven't listened to the old music. It's better than anything they hear today."


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