This very white boy plays the blue very well

Johnny Winter: Johnny Winter


Okay, let’s start by saying yes, at least some white boys can indeed play the blues. Play the hell out of them, in fact. Some, of course, cannot and should stop right now. I mean it.

But few white boys can play them as well as Johnny Winter can. And ironically, few are as white as this albino blues powerhouse. Starting out as a rock guitarist, Winter let the blues world know in no uncertain terms that he had arrived with this self-titled album in 1969. Unlike many white boys, he neither softened the real blues sound nor rockified the music to appeal to a broader audience.

To get that sound, he not only played it, he backed himself up with the real deal: blues legend Willie Dixon on piano, harmonica ace Walter Horton. Even more telling when it comes to him nailing the sound is that he’s played on recordings by Muddy Waters and other blues giants. Just listen to his guitar and you’ll see why. Whether he’s playing a driving electric solo or acoustic slide, the music is pure and true.

I need to take a moment and provide a little caveat here: You’re either a fan of Winter’s high growl of a voice or you’re not. I am. And he shows some surprising range with it. Ray Charles had perhaps one of the most soulful voices on the planet, but his rendition of I’ll Drown in my Own Tears falls far short of where Winter takes it on this disk.

I’ve listened to other albums by Winter over the years. This one remains my favorite. If you like the blues, this white boy’s music belongs in your collection.

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