When Johnny Winter released "I'm A Bluesman" in 2004, critics were brutal-"lost his feral growl, no longer plays speedy solos", etc. The good news is that Johnny's health has improved greatly since that time, and his renewed vigor is apparent in "Roots". Add the production talents of guitarist Paul Nelson, and Winter has given us a winner.
Personally, I love the recent trend of Blues and R&B artists in all star collaborations. The opening track."T-Bone Shuffle" features the incredible talents of slide master Sonny Landreth. "Farther On Up the Road" shows what a fine guitarist Jimmy Vivino is. He has a talent for making good material great, and his ability to elevate the star of the show is second to none (check out his contributions to Shemekia Copeland's first recording, "Turn the Heat Up"). On the Elmore James chestnut "Done Somebody Wrong", Warren Haynes invokes the great Duane Allman in the intro, then steps back while Johnny takes the first solo. The respect these two have for each other is apparent; neither one getting in the others way.
For the harmonica freaks, back to back tracks feature two very accomplished-and very different players. "Got My Mojo Workin'" has been done to death, but Frank Torre of the King Bees blows new life into the well worn standard. John Popper plays what may be his finest recorded solo on "Last Night". Johnny's solo on this cut is sublime.
The album's lone instrumental is Bill Dogett's "Honky Tonk", featuring brother Edgar on sax. They play the melody together and swap solos-nice to hear them work together again. Mike DiMeo adds classic R&B organ while Nelson supports the band with a strong, loping rhythm.
It's hard to pick a favorite track on this CD, but I have to lean toward "Come Back Baby". John Medeski plays a jazzy organ solo in the style of Jimmy Smith, and DiMeo adds an after hours style of Blues piano (think Ray Charles' "A Fool For You"). Johnny is supported here by a full horn section- something atypical for him. His solo alone will make you want to repeat the track many times. For those worried about his voice, he has never sounded better than he does here.
Hopefully, Johnny's older fans will appreciate this most recent effort. As for new fans, there isn't any reason you can't start right here.