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by GFats on August 22, 2011

Megaforce Records

Review by A.J. Wachtel


It is a given this cd is full of amazing guitar work by some of the best artists around, but the unexpected and unbelievable surprise is the formula this project is organized around. Johnny returns to his roots by paying homage to the iconic blues heroes whose music influenced his own signature sound and style. Backed by his own stellar band, Paul Nelson on guitar who also produces this project, Scott Spray on bass, and Vito Liuzzi on drums, a host of special guests join Winter trading licks in honoring his idols. These all-stars include: Louisiana slide wizard Sonny Landreth, country musician Vince Gill, Conan’s guitarist Jimmy Vivino, Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule vet Warren Haynes, Blues Traveler frontman John Popper and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, two of the biggest stars on the blues/rock scene today. New to the mix is the way these guests aren’t in the studio trying to mimic his sound but instead are allowed to shine in their own styles and strut their own stuff. They invariably take the first solos in the songs and the results are electrifying. Some of the many highlights include: the country/rock version of Chuck Berry’s first hit “Maybelline”. Vince Gill’s guitar solo is as sweet as molasses and hearing Johnny play Chuck is always fantastic. Allman Brothers slide guitarist Haynes paying tribute to Duane AND Elmore is pretty cool too on “Must Have Done Somebody Wrong” and when Johnny takes his solo and plays he makes this song his own. Derek Truck’s brilliant slide on “Dust My Broom” gives way to Winter’s stunning example of the virtuosity he has that Robert Johnson would surely have sold his own soul to the devil to possess. Blues Traveler’s John Popper plays nice harp on Little Walter’s “Last Night” and Boston blues artist Susan Tedeschi wails with her impressive vocals singing with Johnny on Jimmy Reid’s “Bright Lights Big City”. This cover is done with a more traditional r & b flavor than the Rolling Stones’ early rock and roll version. You get the impression that performing with Winter brings out the best in each guest artist and propels their spectacular performances on this cd. “Honky Tonk” with brother Edgar is probably a song they’ve done together for decades but this is a better version then the original mostly because of Edgar’s fluttering sax and the whole “dive bar feeling” in the mood that takes this classic cover to a rockier and more contemporary level. “Short Fat Fanny” with Paul Nelson showcasing his extraordinary talent is more of what you’d expect from the Texas icon’s catalog and it’s a great song, a great version and it’s a lot of fun to hear. “Come Back Baby” with jazz great John Medeski on keys is a slow blues with a nice organ solo and Johnny just explodes in this great closer. From Elmore to Muddy to Chuck to Little Walter to T-Bone Walker all the bases are covered on this fantastic tribute cd. Listen to Johnny set the standards and hear his guests pay tribute to him and his heroes.

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