When Reese Wynans decided to make his first-ever solo album after more than 50 years in the business, including a taste of his days with Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble was a no-brainer. So it’s no surprise that Sweet Release, due out March 1, opens with an electrifying new version of 1989’s “Crossfire,” whose video is premiering exclusively below.
“It was great to do that one,” the keyboardist tells Billboard. He credits Sweet Release producer Joe Bonamassa, who Wynans has played with for the past five years, with the suggestion to do the track. His brassy take on the song, which Wynans co-wrote, features a reunion with the Double Trouble rhythm section of Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton and guest vocals by Sam Moore, while Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jack Pearson play guitar. “I do recall playing that song and loving that song back in the day,” notes Wynans, who adds an extended organ solo to his version. “When we were first writing it, Tommy came up with that bass line and that R&B groove, and someone said it sounded like a Sam & Dave kind of groove.
“When I was telling that story to Joe he recommended that we hire Sam Moore to come and sing it. I never met Sam before. He agreed to do it and he loves the song and loves singing it. The whole thing was very exciting.”
Wynans can say the same for the entire 13-track Sweet Release, which was recorded in Nashville and also features guest appearances by Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo, Warren Haynes, Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall, Bonnie Bramlett and others. The set is an outgrowth of another album Wynans had made of all original material; He “wasn’t that happy with the way they came out” and put the project aside, only to have Bonamassa resurrect the idea of a Wynans solo album and insisting he produce it. Bonamassa also came up with the idea for Wynans using the album to revisit his career, including early influences (Tampa Red’s “I’ve Got the Right to Be Blue” and “So Much Trouble,” Michael Bloomfield’s “You’re Killing My Love”), Les Dudek’s “Take the Time” from his days in Jacksonville, Fla., playing with the Allman Brothers Band precursor the Second Coming, additional songs initially recorded with Vaughan (“Say What!,” “Riviera Paradise” and “Hard to Be”), the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” the Meters’ “Soul Island” and the title track, from Wynans’ days playing in Boz Scaggs’ band.
“You run into a lot of sidemen like myself who make records and nobody really listens to them very much. You’re just doing it to have something out,” notes Wynans, whose resume also includes work with Carole King, Los Lonely Boys, Brooks & Dunn, Buddy Guy, Trisha Yearwood and many more. “So we decided we should go ahead and play some of the songs I famously played on in the past for other people and start from there.” While Bonamassa is keeping him busy Wynans is hoping to put together some shows of his own in the future, and he also sees Sweet Release as a first step in maybe bringing those original songs out at some point.
“That’s coming up; You’ll be hearing some of that in the next record, for sure,” Wynans says. “I never thought of myself as a frontman or a rock star or anything like that. I’m a musician and I love being a musician and help make people’s songs sound better. I don’t have to sit out front, but it’s nice to get a chance to do it now, after so many years of playing, y’know?”