Johnny Winter Taps All-Star Lineup for 'Roots' Album
It should be no surprise that Johnny Winter's next album finds him playing the blues. But on "Roots," due out later this year, he's playing other people's blues.
The veteran guitarist, singer and bandleader's first studio album in more than seven years finds him covering material such as Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," Son House's "Death Letter," Elmore James' "Done Somebody Wrong," Bobby Blue Bland's "Further On Up the Road," Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City," Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working" and Walter Davis' "Come Back Baby." "Roots" also features a pair of instrumentals, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's "Okie Doke Stomp" and "Honky Tonk," which features a guest appearance by Winter's younger brother Edgar.
Also helping on the album are ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, and "Conan" bandleader Jimmy Vivino. More guests are expected to be announced soon.
"It's all old material that I grew up being influenced by," Winter tells Billboard.com. "I do a lot of songs I grew up loving. I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time. It actually is my manager's idea, but I love it."
Growing up in Beaumont, Tex., Winter -- who played clarinet and ukulele before picking up the guitar -- says blues is something that appealed to him as soon as he was exposed to it. "I first started hearing it on the radio before I saw anybody live," he recalls. "I was about 12 when I heard it on the radio and I thought, 'This is the greatest music I've ever heard. What is this stuff?' The first album I ever bought was 'Singing the Blues' by B.B. King, then I started playing it."
"Roots" is not Winter's only recording project this year, however. He played on a new version of "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" for an upcoming album by Sly Stone and on a rendition of Deep Purple's "Space Truckin' " for William Shatner's new album, "Seeking Major Tom."
"It was a funny song," Winter says of the latter project. "[Shatner] doesn't sing; he just talked it. He sent the tape down and I played on it; I didn't meet him or anything. But I always liked 'Star Trek,' so it was fun to do."
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of "Live Johnny Winter And," the concert recording that was Winter's greatest commercial success. His own feelings about the hard-rocking album are ambivalent, however.
"It's not one of my favorites," he confesses. "I like rock 'n' roll second to the blues; I just pretty much went into doing more rock 'n' roll because my manger back then thought the blues was kind of fading. He thought [rock] would be a good idea. I really wasn't happy about it, but it was my biggest-selling album, so it still feels a little strange to me."