Friday, March 17, 2017

Johnny Winter - 1977 - Nothin' But The Blues

Johnny Winter 
Nothin' But The Blues

01. Tired Of Tryin' 3:40
02. TV Mama 3:11
03. Sweet Love And Evil Women 2:50
04. Everybody's Blues 5:03
05. Drinkin' Blues 3:40
06. Mad Blues 4:17
07. It Was Rainin' 5:53
08. Bladie Mae 3:30
09. Walking Thru The Park 4:07

Johnny Winter - guitar, harmonica, drums, bass, vocals
Muddy Waters - guitar, vocals
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - drums
Pinetop Perkins - piano
Bob Margolin - guitar
James Cotton - harmonica
Charles Calmese - bass

"I'd like to dedicate this album to all the people who enjoy my kind of blues and especially to Muddy Waters for giving me the inspiration to do it and for giving the world a lifetime of great blues." - Johnny Winter

It is interesting to look back on Johnny Winter's career up to this point, 1977. In the early to mid sixties, he can be heard playing everything from blues rock to psychedelic rock to some soul infused rock and sixties pop rock. Most of these early tracks are short (around two to three minutes) and rarely develop into anything past a nice melody. His 1969 releases showed a more bluesy Winter and company, altogether abandoning the psychedelic influences and focusing more on guitar centered blues rock. In the early seventies, he became famous for his work with Rick Derringer and the pure rock music that followed ("Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" being the most famous). In many of the live performances I have of Johnny, the crowd can often be heard demanding him to blast out one of these rock tracks, often to the point of yelling at him as he plays the blues. Nothin' But the Blues is just as the title suggests; Johnny Winter's middle finger at the rock and roll demanding populous. I do think that he enjoyed playing roll and roll tracks, but his departure from the blues rock that started his career in 1969 and his desire to play the blues had obviously reached an erupting point. This album is a return to the blues and blues rock eight years previous. No more driving drums, rolling bass lines, and shredding guitar solos. Instead, the rock element is replaced with a more traditional blues repertoire from some pretty big names in the field. There is plenty of harmonica work both supporting and lead from James Cotton, light drums by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, piano compliments of "Pine Top" Perkins, and some supporting vocals from the great Muddy Waters to name a few. Johnny even picks up a metal body resonator during a few of the tracks. All of this results in an album unlike any he has produced before. Although none of the tracks presented on Nothin' But the Blues is as heavy as his more well known blues rock, there is a nice mix of blues and blues rock tracks.

If you like slide guitar, you are in for a treat as this album is full of it. Since Winter's guitar shares the spotlight with other blues musicians, Nothin' But the Blues feels more like a communal effort and not the Johnny Winter show like some of his past albums. With the exception of "Walking Thru the Park," Winter wrote all of the material here. I love the lyrics on "Drinkin' Blues." This track has easily the best lines on the album including, "All I had for breakfast was two smokes and one half pint." Harmonica is all over the album, and with James Cotton playing the harp, why not? He has a nice solo on the infectious album opener, "Tired of Tryin'." One of the bluesiest tracks, "TV Mama" has some great slide work. These three tracks are my favorites but also enjoy Muddy Waters helping with the vocals on "Walking Thru the Park." Although there are no tracks that are among Winter's all time best, this album is consistently above average from start to finish. If you enjoy his early blues recordings, you will most likely enjoy Nothin' But the Blues. This is an album Johnny wanted to cut and his happiness is easily heard here. I tend to enjoy the A side slightly more than the B, but all is enjoyable. This may not be as flashy and toe tapping as The Progressive Blues Experiment, but that is not the purpose of most of these tracks. Expect more down to earth blues and you will be entertained.

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