The Johnny Winter Story

Johnny Winter's I'm a Bluesman

Front of the official release of "I'm a Bluesman"
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man
Front and Back cover of the promotional release of "I'm a Bluesman"
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man

Johnny Winter - I'm a Bluesman

Johnny Winter's album "I'm a Bluesman" was nominated for a Grammy in November 2004

    

 

Johnny Winter

Short review of "I'm a Bluesman" in a Danish newspaper Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man

4 out of 6 stars, that's great! The title on Johnny Winters first cd in 8 years covers the contents, because it's solid blues added a touch of boogie. Winter's modest voice is in front together with his powerfull singing guitar. The mainpart of the songs are written for Winter, but a well known bluesclassic has sneaked in, Hop Wilsons, That wouldn't Satisfy, and this is shricking, authentic blues- with lots of "feeling" and blue notes.
I have waited over six years for this cd to be released. Worth the wait without a doubt. Johnny’s vocals has mellowed since his last studio release & the solos are not as fast as they were, but IMO he is still the best musician past, present & future. Songs like Lone Wolf, The Monkey Song, Shakedown & Lets Start Over Again proves he still has the blues running through his veins. The band on this cd is as great a band as he has ever had. Johnny choice of adding guitarist/songwriter Paul Nelson I think will prove to be very interesting in a very positive way. I hope we don’t have to wait another 6 years for another release. Even after the health issues THE MAN has faced over the last few years, he can still do the blues like no other. Like the sticker says on the cover POUND FOR POUND JOHNNY WINTER KICKS MAJOR A$$!!!!!!

I`ve been listening to Johnny`s new cd,"I`m a Bluesman",and I think Johnny kicks Major Ass on the record.(Just like the sticker promises). The title cut,written by Johnny`s bassist, Scott Spray, and guitarist Paul Nelson, is a perfect cut for Johnny to assert himself on, his playing is tight, funky, and all Johnny Winter- "Cheatin` Blues", "I smell smoke", and " Lone wolf" are all good choices for Johnny Winter to work with. Johnny`s playing on "So much love", a Jon Paris tune, and "The monkey song", by Ken Howell, show Johnny having some bluesy fun (check out the lyrics on Monkey)!

"Shakedown,"(another Spray-Nelson tune) has Johnny playing some of the best rocking/blues riffs he has recorded in a long time. Great feel. Johnny`s own "Sweet little baby" is next, and it has the vintage Johnny Winter slide I`ve waiting to hear on the record! Johnny + band are burning on this cut. "Pack your bags" (another Spray- Nelson cut)has Johnny wailing on a minor blues. "Last Night" is a cool uptempo shuffle,+ "That Wouldn`t satisfy" is a rare treat for all Johnny Winter fans: Johnny playing solo on acoustic slide guitar showing he is still the King!

Johnny also does a killer version of "Sugar coated love" with Spray co producer/drummer Tom Hambridge, and last but not least is a Johnny- James Montgomery cut called " Let`s start all over again", which Johnny and the band rock out on.. ( makes me want to start the cd all over again). Guess you could tell I love the album, and I definitely recommend it to all Johnny Winter fans, both old and new. and that`s MY opinion.....
Bill Wagoner


1. I'm a Bluesman. Starts off with a real nice groove. Vocals are pretty lackluster, especially by Johnny's previous standards.
Nice, smooth playing, very tasteful in its simplicity. Vocals sound a bit tired. Lyrics are a bit mediocre. Maybe a double-track (or other enhancement) would help the vocal a bit. The guitar is very nice, though. This would be a very nice song to hear live, as it leaves Johnny ample room to let it loose. Interesting that Johnny didn't lay down his own rhythm tracks, though Paul does a nice job with it. Probably the weakest track on the album.

2. Cheatin' Blues: Hammond organ is a nice touch. Vocals a bit stronger than on the title track. Johnny's fills are real nice throughout the song. This song has a real natural feel for Johnny. A better composition lyrically than the title track. This could be a nice airplay song to promote the album. One of the better tracks of the album.

3. I Smell Smoke: Great groove. Another good fit for Johnny. One of the finer compositions, This is another tune that could get well-received by the blues stations. Nice playing throughout.

4. Lone Wolf: The echo on the voice helps add a bit of depth to his singing. Very tasty slide work by the master. More slide playing would be welcome on the entire disc (not to mention his shows). The growls and howls are a real nice touch and add some life to the performance. I can see the band really jamming this one and having a lot of fun. Pretty trite lyrics, but a lot of fun. Johnny's performance saves the composition.

5. So Much Love: Johnny's voice sounds fuller on this song. Still a bit tired, but definitely deeper with some growling. James Montgomery's playing is pretty nice. He ain't no Pat Ramsey, but, then again, who is? (Not a fair comparison, of course.) It's nice to hear Johnny's rhythm playing; simple, yet effective.

6. The Monkey Song: Nice to see Johnny still has his dirty side.
What's a Johnny album without some humor along these lines?
A nice slower tempo with some real nice fills and that trademark great tone. This song can really be nice addition to his set list with some added tempo changes. (I can hear him bringing it way down and then back up.) Johnny shows that he doesn't have to play like lightning to still have a dramatic effect with his playing.

7. Shake Down: A pretty ordinary and forgetful lyric. More of a rocker and shows Johnny can still do it if he wishes. Paul's rhythm playing is nice. Johnny displays a taste of his old brilliance, but the song fades too quickly at the end.

8. Sweet Little Baby: Slide work is a bit rough in spots, but what a great sound. Nice three-piece sound on this one. Sounds a bit like "Boot Hill" as well as some other staples from his old set lists. It's nice, but I think one more take on this one might have made it better.

9. Pack Your Bags. Another ordinary composition. Very tasty lead break by Johnny. Some of Johnny's finer playing on the album.

10. Last Night: Faster pace. Brings back a lot of memories with this tempo. Johnny seems to have his heart more in this one than with some of the others. His old trademark riff makes a welcome visit to the lead break. Montgomery's playing is pretty nice on this one. This performance has some nice polish on it that isn't evident on some of the other songs.

11. That Wouldn't Satisfy: What a great choice for an acoustic number. This song proves that Johnny should some day do an all-acoustic release. The pace of this one drags a bit, and sounds a little too calculated in his playing. But he sounds like he's being very carefully and not getting all caught up in his playing, which is a nice touch. This is Johnny telling us to sit back, take our time and soak it all in. I wonder if this song was his choice or a suggestion by someone else.

12. Sugar Coated Love: Johnny sounds weaker in the first half of this sound than he does in the second half. The growls and "All rights" during the lead break help strengthen his singing for the remainder of the track. But, as with the others, the playing is real nice. Another one that ends too abruptly.

13. Let's Start All Over Again. Johnny sounds better on this song than anywhere on the album. It just shows that maybe a few more tries on some of the other songs couldn't have hurt. This is a nice blues rocker that makes me want to play the CD through again.

Overall a nice production with some careful, but solid playing throughout. In my opinion, I think the album suffers a bit from material. The Paul Nelson/Scott Spray originals are forgettable compositions only made better by Johnny's presence.

The band is good, though not very noteworthy. But I guess that's the way it should be; it's Johnny's backing band. He's had few releases in the past where he allowed another musician to share the limelight (Pat Ramsey and Floyd Radford come to
mind.)

As I expected, Johnny's vocals take a bit to get used to, even after the last few years and knowing what to expect. I think he should have done a new vocal take on the title track and a few others. I think the title track is one of the weaker efforts and maybe would have been a better song to close the album with. I fear that his singing may be unfairly compared too closely to what he did 12 years ago in his last studio release. But, like Steve Foster stated, "this is Johnny today." Contrary to some other posts, his playing isn't what it used to be (pre-'94). Those days of lightning riffs are gone. But that's not a negative thing; it's just reality. Johnny's playing is as tasteful as ever and it's a very good effort. But it's much better than what I saw in 1998. For that I am thankful.

I like the fact that Johnny is making a statement that he's a bluesman. No pretentions here. That's what he is and if that's not good enough for you, then that's too bad.

If Johnny plays this well when I see him next month, I'll be very happy.

My Rating: Three out of Four Stars. Not great, but very good.

Ron MacDonald
Wexford, Pennsylvania.


On the title track to Johnny Winter's first album in eight years, the Beaumont native says, "If you don't believe what I say, listen to my guitar play." It's good advice.

His strong guitar playing, along with with James Montgomery's harp, makes this project work.

On "Lone Wolf" and "Sweet Little Baby," Mr. Winter plays the slide guitar, an instrument sometimes forgotten on today's blues circuit. His crisp sound is haunting and reminiscent of slide masters such as Elmore James.
Johnny Winter

Not so special are Mr. Winter's vocals, at best serviceable and wisely understated. But his twang does not take away from the overall impact of the album.

With this album, Mr. Winter proves, at the least, that he belongs in any debate about the world's best blues guitarists.


For more than 30 years, Johnny Winter has been at the forefront of modern blues and blues-rock, and his new I'm A Bluesman disc, arriving June 15 from Virgin Records, figures to add to his Texas-sized reputation.

For this release, Johnny has again paired with his long-time producer Dick Shurman (Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan), as well as Tom Hambridge (Susan Tedeschi, George Thorogood). Backing him is his road-tested touring band of ace harmonica man James Montgomery, bassist Scott Spray and drummer Wayne June, along with guitarist Paul Nelson with guest appearances by such friends as keyboardist Reese Wynans (from Stevie Ray Vaughan's celebrated backing group Double Trouble) among others.

I'm A Bluesman is Johnny's first new collection in nearly eight years. It was a question of finding the time and the right material, he says, plus a long recuperation from hip surgery. The 13-track collection includes three tunes by his friend Paul Nelson, a Connecticut-based guitar player who writes with Winter's bassist Scott Spray. They collaborated on the prison themed "Shakedown," a relationship-gone-bad song titled "Pack Your Bags" and the album's title track, which Nelson describes as an attempt at a Johnny Winter biography.

"Johnny is a real hero to me, and I wanted to do a song about his life. I know how Johnny talks, how he phrases things, and I wanted to capture his feelings. It's about who he is, what he represents to other musicians and what he's accomplished. I'm really proud that when he first heard the song he said I'd gotten it right." Nelson also provides guitar on the song and plays on many other tracks as well.

Winter also opted to record two new songs by producer Hambridge, "Cheatin' Blues" and the first album single, "Lone Wolf." Johnny says it's always been something of a mystery to him how singles get picked, but he's especially happy with how his electric slide-playing turned out on this track. "It's a really good song," he vouches.

He's also pleased to have finally recorded "So Much Love," a tune by former bandmate Jon Paris which Johnny has played live on a number of occasions and has meant to record for years. "It's about time I've finally got around to doing it for an album," he says.

Johnny reaches back into his past for songs by two musicians, Hop Wilson and Lazy Lester, who inspired him during the early days in Texas. The nod to Wilson (1927-1975) comes in the form of a spine-tingling solo acoustic version of "That Wouldn't Satisfy," a tune Hop originally recorded for the Goldband label in 1958. "Hop was one of my heroes coming up. I never got over to see him in Houston, but I liked his records a lot. He had a real different way of playing steel guitar." The salute to the still active Lester comes in a cover of his Jay Miller-written hit on Excello, "Sugar Coated Love." Winter says, "I'm a big fan of Lazy Lester. He even played on one of my earliest records, 'That's What Love Does,' when I was just 16 or 17."

Johnny's own compositions on I'm A Bluesman include "Sweet Little Baby," a slide-drenched song he wrote during a tour stop in Central Europe's picturesque Prague, and the disc-closing "Let's Start Over Again," composed with harmonica player James Montgomery who joined Johnny's band last year after a long career leading his own group and releasing seven albums under his own name.

Johnny and his players cut the tracks for I'm A Bluesman at several studios in New England, where Winter makes his home these days. But Winter remains a native Texan, born and bred in Beaumont, the town where the famous Spindletop gusher came in to kick off the "black gold" rush in 1901.


Yes, he's a bluesman -- has anyone at all familiar with Johnny Winter ever thought anything else? But his first album of new material in almost eight years was certainly very much in the straightforward blues-rock mold, emphasis on the "blues" over "rock." There was nothing to either disappoint long-term fans or excite the unconverted, as it was about exactly the set you'd expect from Winter, setting energetic if predictably formatted material to solid electric blues arrangements. His accomplished guitar playing sometimes bore a tarter tone than some of his past recordings, and his vocals as always were not as impressive as his axework, though they were serviceable. The songs were a mixture of originals, contributions from past and present sidemen and producer Tom Hambridge, and covers of Lazy Lester's "Sugar Coated Love" and Hop Wilson's "That Wouldn't Satisfy." Although this is acceptably competent, good-natured blues-rock, it's the acoustic "That Wouldn't Satisfy" that provides the most inspired moments. Winter's slide guitar on this track is superb, whetting one's appetite for an entire album of such outings should he ever be in the mood to go unplugged.


Hey All, well it took over 3 weeks to get here, but, "I'm a Blues Ma"n arrived today. So far I'm only up to track 5 on the first listen. I almost didn't think it was Johnny singing on "I'm a Blues Man", didn't sound like him. I think it was in the engineering, sounds like they worked on the vocals. Guitar playing is way more laid back than I am used to. Jumping to where I am now on the cd, vocals are not as powerful as Johnny used to be, but the band is tight and I'm hearing familiar licks. Johnny is opening up a bit on "Shake Down", vocals still not strong, but sounding more like Johnny. Finally, "Sweet Little Baby", very much like "Black Cat Bone". Actually I am reminded of a few older songs on this album. Playing is not as strong as I am used to, but it is still tasty. Maybe less aggressive than the old Johnny, and not as agile on the neck. But hey, Johnny is 60 now and it's still a rockin' alubm. Last Night is not the one I thought it might be. There is no booklet or cover information other than what I included, which has no credits. That "Wouldn't Satisfy" I'm sure I've heard before, but for the life of me I can't place it (later, Suicide Won't Satisfy). "Sugar Coated Love" is hard driving song, vocals a bit nasal, but very Johnny. Let's Start All Over Again is pretty band driven, sure to get an audience moving.
 
All in all, it's a good album. The vocals are a bit weak on a couple of songs, and Johnny's licks are not as tight as they used to be, but he's still got it. And the band sounds great. I do really like the sound of this album. Lone Wolf is playing again now, pretty tasty and some new slide technique on this one. I think now that I'm listening for the second time, the surprise of the different sound of Johnny's vocals has passed, and I'm able to listen more freely. "Monkey Song" is a rework of "Mother Earth" about a "slick" chick. "Shake Down" is probably the weakest song on the album, but has some of the fastest playing (actually reminds me of a Blondie song lyrically (chorus)). I think I would have liked it better as an instrumental. 
 
All in all, it's a very good album. If he had put out a few albums in between the years, it wouldn't have been such a change, and would have been more natural on first listen. But I like it, and it's great to hear some new Johnny! I will make one criticism on the track selection: although I enjoy "That Won't Satisfy", it has an "outtake" quality to it that does not work on the album. I think I would have included this as a bonus track, or one of those that comes up as the 13th song on 1st pressings after about 20 seconds of silence. It's very worthwhile, but it really does not fit into the structure of the album. Unfortunately with basically 10 years of silence, Johnny has to resell himself to the public. And this certainly appeals to those of us that have been fans since the beginning (pre-1969), but it might break the flow for a new listener.
Tom The Sixth Crystalier.
 

Fans of Eric Clapton, Albert King and The Allman Brothers are well advised to check out Johnny Winter's excellent latest album. There is fantastic guitar work thoughout the record, non better than opening track 'I'm A Bluesman' which Johnny just rips apart and is killer and features Paul Nelson who helped out a couple of years ago with the Jason Becker charity albums and he just rips on this track, supremely track. Paul wrote this track and its really groovy with fantastic vocals from Johnny Winter.

'Cheatin' Blues' was written by drummer Tom Hambridge and is again excellent and very catchy.

'I Smell Smoke' is more jazzy and in tune with Eric Clapton, as the title suggest the track smokes and there is some fine guitar work going down here and Johnny's vocals remind me of Richie Sambora meets Jeff Healey on this superb track. 'Lone Wolf' is a rocker and was released as a single and is very catchy whereas 'So Much Love' chugs along complete with harmonicas, a great boogie shuffle track. The guitars are very strong on 'The Monkey Song', this is a strong track, very much a blues jam with harmonicas and is just totally brilliant. Next up is 'Shake Down', now then this is a killer track, once again this has been written by Paul Nelson and also shows strong Southern influences, this would make another choice single and reminds me of Bob Segar, great stuff. 'Sweet Little Baby' features very cool guitar work from Johnny Winter, whereas 'Pack Your Baby' is definitely how I like my blues, again written with Paul Nelson, this is up there with The Jeff Healey Band and is very cool. 'Last Night' flows with a more commercial edge and is a fun track, whilst 'That Wouldn't Satisfy' is a slower track that reminds me of Ry Cooder. 'Sugar Coated Love' is a solid very catchy blues rocker where as the last song 'Let's Start All Over Again' displays how good the blues can be, this is very hooky with excellent vocals.

I was surprised at how solid this album is, if your a fan of blues based rock, then is essential and reminds me of just how important blues rock is.


JOHNNY WINTER: "I'm a Bluesman." Virgin.

Johnny Winter's first album in nearly eight years finds the veteran blues-rocker in vintage musical condition at age 60.

This lively collection of originals and oldies gives Winter the chance to explore his blues roots and rock instincts. He was always one of the more thoughtful players in a style that often favors speed over substance. Not that his fingers have lost any quickness. But Winter knows how to slow down and savor the blue notes, too.

Maybe that's why he was so instrumental in the late 1970s on several albums that revived Muddy Waters' flagging career. Winters produced and played guitar on the splendid 1977 Grammy-winning "Hard Again" and followed that with three more Muddy Waters efforts.

The music here mostly favors Johnny Winter's fiery guitar; his vocals are most effective when he keeps them in a lower register. Not that it matters a lot -- his emotion carries the singing, with a bent or broken note just adding more grit.

In one departure from type, Winter turns in an ethereal acoustic performance of "That Wouldn't Satisfy" by Texas steel guitarist Hop Wilson, whom Winter cites as one of his heroes. It would have been more satisfying to add more like it to the mix -- it's the best blues on the album


Nashville City Paper Reviews "I'm a Bluesman"

.Johnny Winter avoids the stylistic traps that have sometimes ruined his
releases with I'm A Bluesman (Virgin/EMI). With legendary blues producer Dick Shurman and/or Tom Hambridge handling that end of the deal, Johnny Winter concentrates on singing and playing with exactly the right amount of restraint and clarity. Instead of his guitar solos descending into lengthy, empty runs and feedback-laced jams, they are lean, fast and exciting.

Likewise, his vocals are clear, forceful and credible. The song quality's a
bit erratic, but there are enough solid numbers like "Cheatin' Blues,"
"Shake Down," "Let's Start All Over Again" and "Last Night" to overlook the occasional throwaway piece.  It also helps that he's got a fine harmonica player (James Montgomery) adding biting solos, and the team of second guitarist Paul Nelson, bassist Scott Spray and drummer Wayne June also emerge as sympathetic contributors. But overall, this disc has a calm strength and clarity that make it among the best things Johnny Winter's done in several years.

"I'M A BLUESMAN" Look for Johnny's new CD titled: "I'M A BLUESMAN" to be released mid-June 2004 on Virgin Records. Musicians on "I'M A BLUESMAN" include members of Johnny's current touring band James Montgomery (Harp), Scott Spray (Bass), Wayne June (Drums), along with guitarist Paul Nelson and produced by Dick Shurman and Tom Hambridge.

    Tracklisting
  • I'm a Bluesman (4:12) Written by Paul Nelson and Scott Spray. Starts out with a drum roll, then in comes the Johnny Winter vocals. A nice groove beat with some excellent Johnny Winter guitar.
  • Cheatin' Blues (3:23) Written by Tom Hambridge, Monster Mike Welch on 2nd Guitar, Tom Hambridge on Drums. Another Johnny Winter vocal-filled tune. Again some excellent Johnny Winter guitar work along with some Tom West (Hammond B-3 organ).
  • I Smell Smoke (3:57) Reese Wynans on keyboardss, Tommy MacDonalds Bass, Monster Mike Welch on 2nd Guitar, Tom Hambridge on Drums. Some nice Johnny Winter guitar and vocals. No doubt, Johnny smells smoke on this one. Clear vocals throughout.
  • Lone Wolf (3:30) - Sai Balgio on 2nd guitar, Tommy MacDonalds on Bass, Guitar, Tom Hambridge on DrumsThe track "Lone Wolf" has also been released as a single. Written by Tom Hambridge. Something of a garage band beat, this tune starts with some rhythm guitar work by Sal Baglio and joined by Mr. Winter on slide! Johnny Winter even belts out a few howls throughout (Lone Wolf). Nice tune.
  • So Much Love (3:22) Although Jon Paris doesn't appear on the CD, he wrote this tune. Again, Johnny Winter on vocals. James Montgomery on harmonica. Vintage Johnny Winter on guitar. Very bluesy number.
  • Monkey Song (6:14) Written by Ken Howell Slowed-down blues tune with Johnny Winter vocals. Excellent harmonica work by James Montgomery. I wonder what Johnny refers to about "shaving that monkey clean"?? HHmmmm! He might be going after a brand new monkey. A classic Johnny Winter blues tune indeed.
  • Shake Down (4:02) Shake Down: Written by Paul Nelson and Scott Spray.
    Johnny sings of a time back in '63. Nice rhythm guitar by Paul Nelson. Excellent lead guitar by Johnny Winter as well. Real nice tune.
  • Sweet Little Baby (2:49) Written by Johnny Winter.
    Johnny's electric slide guitar is excellent on this one. Straight forward rockin' blues tune. Johnny lets everyone know that he appreciates the woman.
  • Pack Your Bags (4:04) Written by Paul Nelson and Scott Spray.
    Slowed-down blues tune. Johnny throws his cheatin' woman out da door! Nice, solid guitar work by Johnny Winter.
  • Last Night (3:12) Fast blues rocker with James Montgomery on harmonica. Nice drumming by Wayne June. This will get your feet movin'!
  • That Wouldn't Satisfy (4:09) Written by Hop Wilson. Starts out with some serious slow slide work by Johnny Winter. In fact, Johnny Winter is the only listed musician on this track. Acoustic slide and vocals. Some slow pickin'. Kinda reminds me of Sweet Papa John from his earlier days. Muddy would be proud!
  • Sugar Coated Love (4:00) Tommy Hambridge (drums) sets the beat early for this one. Johnny sings about some sugar coated love and plays some mean guitar. Scott Spray lays down the bass lines. Gets the blood flowing.
  • Let's Start All Over Again (4:29) Written by Johnny Winter and James Montgomery. Some nice Johnny Winter rhythm guitar with JM on harmonica. Johnny sings of chasing shots of depression with cases of beer. Some good blues here.
  • Headed For Hard Times - Bonus track on the Japanese edition VJCP-68507. Johnny sings and plays the slide guitar in open A tuning. The song begins with his slide solo. This song was written by Fred James. He had written 4 songs for Johnny: 'Lightning'("THE WINTER OF '88"), 'Life Is Hard' ("LET ME IN") 'Illustrated Man'(ditto) and 'Check Out Her Mama' ("hey, where's your brother?").
Johnny Winter I'm a Bluesman Photo Booklet
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
 Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man  Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man  Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man  Johnny Winter - I'm a Blues Man 

Inserts on the Japanese edition of Johnny Winter's I'm a Bluesman

Inserts on the Japanese edition of Johnny Winter's I'm a Bluesman
Johnny Winter - I'm a Bluesman  Japan 
Johnny Winter - I'm a Bluesman  Japan 

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