Yeah, Johnny Winter's first new studio album in over seven years is called Roots, and it features Winter with a bevy of guests like Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Vivino, Warren Haynes, Frank Latorre, John Popper, Vince Gill, Susan Tedeschi, brother Edgar Winter, Derek Trucks, Paul Nelson, John Medeski, and more covering 11 classic blues numbers originally tracked by blues greats like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, and others, but this isn’t one of those “let’s help out the old guitar player explore his roots” kind of blues album. Technically it is, perhaps, but this is every square inch Winter's album. He sings here as well as he ever has and his guitar playing is powerful and brilliant, like it always is, and he’s diving into songs and material that he’s always emulated -- the end result is a coherently shaped, explosive, vibrant, and joyous set of Winter at his best doing what he loves the best. Roots explodes immediately with a funky and appropriately shuffling take on T-Bone Walker's “T-Bone Shuffle” and the album doesn’t really let up from there, gearing through Jimmy Reed's “Bright Lights, Big City” (a duet with Susan Tedeschi), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's "Honky Tonk," a delightful swamp instrumental that features Winter's younger brother Edgar, and a joyous take on Elmore James' “Dust My Broom,” which roars and soars like it’s supposed to, with Winter and guest Derek Trucks making sure that it does. Roots is easily one of the best blues albums of the year, and with the raw yet elegant grace that Winter brings to these songs, it’s also one of the finest albums of his long career.
by Steve Leggett