A Winter’s Tale as Edgar pays tribute to Brother Johnny

A Winter’s Tale as Edgar pays tribute to Brother Johnny

A Winter’s Tale as Edgar pays tribute to Brother Johnny a wonderful album that, although I tend to stick to the originals whilst enjoying the tributes occasionally…this one is so good, it may not supplant Johnny’s versions, but it is already on repeat. An excellent and fitting tribute to an amazing talent by some amazing talents.

Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album that, although I tend to stick to the originals whilst enjoying the tributes occasionally…this one is so good, it may not supplant Johnny’s versions, but it is already on repeat. An excellent and fitting tribute to an amazing talent by some amazing talents.

As an introduction to a musician, not many could beat the first time I heard a spectacular and different instrumental piece called Frankenstein: back in 1972 when it was released, I was already obsessed with heavy rock. I went to my first concert that year (Deep Purple at Newcastle City Hall, where my love of Nazareth was born as they were the superb support) and watched The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops each week hoping for rock on the latter, but often having to settle for Pans People! Then this band appeared on the show, led by a white-haired bloke – Edgar Winter – with a keyboard slung around his neck he unleashed that monster instrumental. I loved the riff and sought out the album it was from…later I discovered he had a brother who played the guitar and I bought their live album Together: Edgar and Johnny Winter Live and as a result bought Johnny’s albums because he was a gifted guitarist and I was already a guitar mad teenager plus, he played the blues so well. (Edgar also introduced me to Ronnie Montrose as he was in the band at the time before going on to form Montrose and release some spectacular stuff too.)

This latest album from Edgar, called lovingly, Brother Johnny features some of Johnny’s best-known originals and covers with a host of major stars who knew, or was inspired by Johnny, including Joe Bonamassa, Doyle Bramhall II, John McFee, Robben Ford, Billy Gibbons, Taylor Hawkins, Warren Haynes, Steve Lukather, Keb Mo, Bobby Rush, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ringo Starr, Derek Trucks, Joe Walsh and Gregg Bissonette to name a few…now that is is a guest list to dream about! The project was first suggested to Edgar just after his brother passed away on July 16, 2014. Johnny had just played the Cahors Blues Festival in France, then travelled to Switzerland where his next show was scheduled, but he passed away in his sleep at the hotel in Zurich. Edgar explains why it took longer than the record company wanted: over the following years as talk of a tribute album continued, my wife Monique, whose intuition I trust more than my own, said, “I think you have to make this album, both for Johnny, for yourself, and for the world. You owe that acknowledgement to your older brother. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t be where you are today. There’s no need to worry about it. If it’s meant to happen, it will.”

It has happened and, despite the pandemic presenting the usual difficulties, the result is a fitting and lasting memorial to one of the greatest blues guitarists to grace studio and stage. As Edgar says, “As kids, we were inseparable, much closer than average brothers. Not only did we learn to play music together, but because we were both albino, we shared a uniquely personal perspective on life different than anyone else’s…So much has happened to both of us since then, but one thing will always remain the same: that bond of brotherhood, of family, of music, and of love.”

“So, in his name,” he said, “I dedicate this album, Brother Johnny.”

There are seventeen tracks, so I will pick my favourites, but only after saying that they are all very, very Johnny Be Goode! The opener is an instant grabber of attention: Mean Town Blues features Joe Bonamassa on top form with bottleneck and Edgar a great, gravel gargled vocal. The guitar playing is superlative and, whilst it is Joe, the Johnny-isms are there and there could be no better tribute to such an excellent player. Memory Pain has the wonderful Warren Haynes also capturing the feel and depth of the original Percy Mayfield penned song that Johnny did such a good job on. (If you get a copy of the original vinyl release, it was a three-sided affair, with side four blank!) 

Jumpin Jack Flash is a great song and with Phil X (best known I guess as guitarist for Bon Jovi after Samara’s exit, although I prefer to remember his contributions with Triumph) it is close to The Stones version with a bit of Johnny too: the rather good guitar solo, however, doesn’t capture Johnny at all but is still tasty. I have to include the over-covered Johnny B. Goode as it’s the best Chuck Berry song and Judas Priest did the best ever cover. Johnny did a damn good version too and this tribute reading has Joe Walsh and David Grissom doing a great job and Edgar blowing up a storm too…a refreshing look at a classic. A Dylan cover that Johnny used to do great things with is addressed by Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John McFee with Edgar on keys: Highway 61 Revisited is thankfully all Johnny and very little Bob and is an excellent reading. Need some acoustic? Then Doyle Bramhall II does a cracking slide driven job on the brilliant Robert Johnson song that Johnny made sparkle anew…and Doyle makes it sparkle anew too. An extra poignancy is to be found on the track Guess I’ll Go Away as it features the late Taylor Hawkins bringing his vocal talents rather drumming…he did a damn good job too, as does Edgar’s long-serving and talented guitarist, Doug Rappoport.

OK, I’ll stop there…suffice it to say there is not a bad track on this album and the two ‘Edgar for Johnny’ compositions bring a tear to the eye as well as summing up the man himself. As always, I tend to stick to the originals whilst enjoying the tributes occasionally…this one is so good, it may not supplant Johnny’s versions, but it is already on repeat. An excellent and fitting tribute to an amazing talent by some amazing talents.

A Winter’s Tale as Edgar pays tribute to Brother Johnny

Track listing:
Mean Town Blues (Featuring Joe Bonamassa)
Still Alive And Well (Featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
Lone Star Blues (Featuring Keb Mo)
I’m Yours And I’m Hers (Billy Gibbons & Derek Trucks)
Johnny B. Goode (Featuring Joe Walsh And David Grissom)
Stranger (Featuring Michael Mcdonald, Joe Walsh & Ringo Starr)
Highway 61 Revisited (Featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd & John McFee)
Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo (Featuring Steve Lukather)
When You Got A Good Friend (Featuring Doyle Bramhall Il)
Guess I’ll Go Away (Featuring Taylor Hawkins & Doug Rappoport)
Drown In My Own Tears (Featuring Edgar Winter)
Self Destructive Blues (Featuring Joe Bonamassa)
Memory Pain (Featuring Warren Haynes)
Stormy Monday Blues (Featuring Robben Ford) Got My Mojo Workin’ (Featuring Bobby Rush)
End Of The Line (Featuring David Campbell Strings)

(iTunes seems telepathic today…no alphabetic: it moved to an Edgar/Johnny album called Brothers in rock and Roll and I decided to treat myself to the brilliant seventeen-minute live version of Tobacco Road.)

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.