If it’s gonna’ be done right - you need to put it into the hands of the masters, and that’s what Edgar has done on Brother Johnny

Brother Johnny
Artist: Edgar Winter
Quarto Valley Records
17 tracks / 75:43     

All too often tributes, whether live events or recorded projects, turn out to be disjointed collections of ego-driven jams by artists haphazardly slapped together performing songs that that can hardly be imagined as real tributes at all. In many cases the original material is barely recognizable, and the artist being paid tribute to seems to have been lost somewhere in the mix. Edgar Winter’s Brother Johnny does something exceptional in the annals of tribute albums - it works. Not only does Brother Johnny work as a tribute album, it stands on its own as a no-holds-barred all-star blues rock masterpiece.

Of course, the Johnny of the album’s title is none other than Johnny Winter, the legendary albino bluesman from Texas, whose raspy growling vocals and lightning-fast guitar work are instantly identifiable to any true blues-rock aficionado. One of the beautiful things about this project is that co-producers Edgar Winter and Ross Hogarth have assembled a set of musicians who obviously know and love the man’s musical legacy enough to have surrendered their own guitar voices to channel Johnny’s sound to an almost startling degree. Among those paying homage to the musical legacy of Johnny Winter are: Joe Bonamassa, Doyle Bramhall II, John McFee, Robben Ford, Billy Gibbons, David Grissom, Taylor Hawkins, Warren Haynes, Steve Lukather, Michael McDonald, Keb Mo, Doug Rappoport, Bobby Rush, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ringo Starr, Derek Trucks, Waddy Wachtel, Joe Walsh, Phil X and Gregg Bissonette. Obviously, these are not guitarists exclusively but all contributed to create almost 75 minutes of blistering blues in memory of the Texas guitar-slinger.

A big bonus here is that you get a multi-level experience if you’re fans of both Johnny and Edgar because this is not only a wonderful collection of Johnny’s most loved tunes, faithfully performed, but it’s also an album full of really fine performances by Edgar! Eight songs feature Edgar’s vocals - and I can dispel any possible doubts right now: he’s still got it! The Winter brothers shared similar vocal timbres, with Edgar being the more flexible and jazzy of the two, and there are times on the album where the similarity is startling. Johnny’s little brother also contributes remarkable performances on sax and keyboards all throughout the project. Hard-core fans of Edgar’s Entrance album will be thrilled with the closing track, “End of the Line,” an emotional orchestrated ballad reminiscent of his “Dying to Live” period (by the way – Edgar Winter fans should check out The Ed Palermo Big Band’s fine, recently-released Edgar Winter tribute album, I’ve Got News For You).

Of course, the blues - and rock ‘n roll to a lesser extent - isn’t something you can break down into a by-the-numbers formula - not if you want it to work, anyway. Blues-rock is an even stranger animal - you would think that the two genres would cancel each other out, and that’s why - if it’s gonna’ be done right - you need to put it into the hands of the masters, and that’s what Edgar has done on Brother Johnny. This is blues. This is soul. This rocks. To try to detail the dazzling solos, the snake-like bass lines, the solid bedrock of the drums, the passion of the vocals... it would be as pointless as trying to describe a great meal and expecting you to really know what it tasted like. But if you have a taste for “Memory Pain,” “Still Alive and Well,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” and a little “Stormy Monday Blues,” “Stranger,” and “Drown in My Own Tears” for desert, you’re in for one heck of a great 17-course musical feast!

Brother Johnny is a must-have album for any Johnny Winter fan. Or any Edgar Winter fan. Or any fan of blues-rock. They knocked it out of the park on this one! 

Bert Saraco 

You can see Bert’s concert photography by visiting www.facebook.com/express.image