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Johnny Winter

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Album Review

Sony Legacy's remastered and expanded reissue of Johnny Winter's self-produced debut album for Columbia Records — recorded in 1969 — is nothing short of a revelation. Unlike most of his peers, who purposefully wed blues to rock and made it palatable to pop audiences, Winter's approach to the blues was pure and savage. He approached rock & roll from the heart of the blues. His guitar tone was like barbed wire dipped in lighter fluid and was as precise as a stiletto. On this recording and Second Winter, Johnny played the blues pure and simple. Whether it was the stinging raucous Delta music as played acoustically on "Dallas," or his savage electric attack on "Mean Mistreater," "Be Careful With That Fool," or "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" — complete with horns and piano by brother Edgar — Winter's blues were easily separated from the masses. His uncompromising, completely mythical, and romantic fascination with the music was propulsive and profound. A listen to "Leland Mississippi Blues" or the strolling tough National Steel blues of "If You've Got a Friend" gives as complete a portrait as is necessary of a man who not only came out of the Texas blues tradition, but extended the whole Southern legacy and brought it deep into mainstream American culture while employing and paying homage to its creators — Willie Dixon plays bass on this record! Containing three bonus tracks, this is one of the most welcome reissues in the blues canon to come down the pipe in quite a while, and if there is one Winter recording to own, it should be this one.


Born: 23 February 1944 in Beaumont, TX

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When Johnny Winter emerged on the national scene in 1969, the hope, particularly in the record business, was that he would become a superstar on the scale of Jimi Hendrix, another blues-based rock guitarist and singer who preceded him by a few years. That never quite happened, but Winter did survive the high expectations of his early admirers to become a mature, respected blues musician with a strong sense of tradition. He was born John Dawson Winter III on February 23, 1944, in Beaumont, Texas,...
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