Johnny Winter: Roots

Star-studded reworkings of Texan Blues Titan’s formative influences.

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Always one of the Lone Star State’s great individualists, Johnny Winter has chosen the 40th Anniversary of his rock-accentuated Live album, a commercial career high, to revisit his musical beginnings.

The lean and mean opening duel with Sonny Landreth on T Bone Walker’s signature T Bone Shuffle sets the tone for some serious stripped-back, no frills, firepower. While the laconic looping harmonica of Blues Traveler virtuoso John Popper gives Last Night a gilded glow; while Winter adds breathtaking runs, wonderfully wacky and technically audacious fills throughout.

The unaffected, straight-to-the-heart approach reaps further dividends with Warren Hayes on a lyrical Done Something Wrong. Sibling Edgar’s sax provides the vibrant backdrop for a progressively unhinged rampage on Bill Doggett’s quintessential R&B instrumental Honky Tonk; and Winter’s merciless drive is gloriously entwined with Derek Trucks’ spiralling slide on Elmore James’ Dust My Broom.

Ultimately, Roots shows that at 67 Winter’s unbreakable connection to his past insures his potency remains undimmed.

Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.