Earlier this year, Edgar Winter announced he was assembling an A-list cohort of electric guitar heroes for Brother Johnny – a mammoth tribute album for his late brother Johnny Winter.
Now, after unveiling a cover of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode as the effort’s lead single, Winter has dropped Mean Town Blues – a rendition of Johnny’s 1968 hit, for which he’s recruited blues guitar icon Joe Bonamassa.
Described by Winter as “one of the most important tracks on the album” and “probably the most difficult to replicate” owing to its ties with Johnny, the track sees JoBo exclusively take on slide duties, with bassist Sean Hurley and drummer Gregg Bissonette completing the lineup.
“When I think about Johnny,” reflected Winter, “his authenticity as a blues man and particularly his style of slide guitar – if there’s one song that best epitomizes and brings all those elements together to represent the many aspects of who Johnny was in the early days, that song would have to be Mean Town Blues.
“Every time I hear it, I think, ‘Now that’s Real Johnny Winter,’” he continued. “It just captures the essence of everything he was. Although my intention was never to make a 'Johnny-sound-alike' or 'copy' album, I wanted this one song to be as authentic as possible.”
Winter also added he charged Bonamassa with emulating Mean Town Blues’ original slide parts after the bluesman impressed with his ability to harness Johnny’s regular guitar style. In fact, Edgar even described him as “our last and best hope” of successfully covering the track.
“I wanted only guitar, bass, and drums, exactly like Johnny’s original blues trio,” he continued. “But I didn’t know of anyone out there who naturally played slide anything like the way Johnny did. I thought Joe Bonamassa did such a great job with Johnny’s regular guitar style, I wonder if he could do the same thing with the slide?
“I called Joe saying I didn’t know where else to turn, and that he was our last and best hope. Joe said it would be a real challenge, but one he was up for. I think he viewed it as an adventure that would add a new dimension to his playing.”
Winter’s praise continued, “As soon as he started playing, I knew we were home free. Joe rose to the challenge and beyond. I swear I’ve never heard anyone (other than myself) able to get inside Johnny’s playing the way Joe does. He nailed it.”
Bonamassa is just one name from a mountain of guest stars set to star on Brother Johnny. Others who have been drafted in for the job include Doyle Bramhall II, Ringo Starr, Robben Ford, Derek Trucks, David Grissom, Warren Haynes and Steve Lukather.
That’s not all, though: the above will also be joined by Phil X, Taylor Hawkins, Michael McDonald, Keb’ Mo’, John McFee, Bobby Rush, Waddy Wachtel, Doug Rappoport and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Of the album’s origins, Winter noted, “Many people immediately started trying to convince me to do a Johnny Winter tribute album. But I was totally devastated, and the timing just didn't feel right to me.
“It wasn’t until after I completed the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest, a tour we were meant to do together with our respective bands,” he added, “that the idea of a tribute record started to take form.”
For more info on the album, head on over to Edgar Winter's website.