Alligator Records Roundup – Lonnie Mack / Fenton Robinson / Johnny Winter / Cash Box Kings

Alligator Records are famous purveyors of all that is blues. Recently, they have reissued some classic records by iconic artists from the 1970’s and 1980’s as well as releasing some great new music.

First up is Lonnie Mack’s Strike Like Lightning, an album of stomping rock n roll  blues which only lets up for a couple of ballad tracks; Stop and Fallin’ Back in Love With You.  Otherwise you can shuffle along at varying speeds to the rest of the foot tappers which are irresistible to bop a long to although for the finale You Ain’t Got Me you have to shift along a lot faster. Try to find a willing partner to smooch along to in the slower numbers and your evening will be complete. Although his rock career stumbled with the 60’s British invasion thankfully his career was resurrected to produce stunning blues music that is evident on this 1985 release and although his name doesn’t trip of anyone’s lips in the UK he went on to heavily influence guitarists of the ilk of Duane Allman, and you can clearly hear why on the album.

If blues of a much subtler and more intricate nature is up your street, with a more laid back and jazzy feel (often labelled Chicago Style blues) then Fenton Robinson’s 1974 first release for Alligator Records is for you. His signature tune, Somebody Lend Me A Dime from 1974, is pure class. The guitar work is exquisite and pure joy to listen to, whilst being easy on the ear. His soft singing style is mournful but not miserable. There is nothing over complicated in the backing rhythms and keyboards which lets his guitar and voice come through with precision and clarity. Sadly, his life was curtailed by cancer in his late 60’s in 1997, which by BB King standards is much too early for any musician, let alone a Chicago blues player. Thankfully Alligator Records have reissued this album to keep such talent alive.

The name Winter is synonymous with high octane eccentric guitar playing and as usual Johnny doesn’t disappoint. His raucous lively blues from this 1984 remaster of Guitar Slinger is as fresh and exciting as when it was first released 40 years ago. His husky singing and rock blues has made him a popular figure on the blues scene over the years and for those initiating themselves with this blues master, there could have no better entry into his world of blues with this classic album (one of three he released with Alligator Records). His association with a plethora of blues guitar legends is no accident and although releasing over 25 albums in his career his experience doing what rock stars do hindered him being far more prolific but his influence lives on.

Johnny Winter Facebook

My favourite of the bunch of four albums is the recent release of Oscar’s Motel  by the Cash Box Kings; it is a superb example of blues harmonica enhanced blues. The blues harmonica continues to thrill me and warm my heart when other harmonica style playing can be whizzed in the same bin as the recorder and kazoo! Whether playing smoky bar room blues or tight and sweaty dance floor romps this album oozes Chicago blues class.

Formed at the turn the millennium, the CBK’s provide a modern outlook to familiar rollicking Chicago blues but are no means in the shadow of the elder statesman in this review as they match them note for note. Enthralling and pulsating, they would be wonderful to catch should they venture over here for any of our amazing UK blues festivals.

This album proves that Alligator Records has not only not lost its touch, but always has their finger on the pulse of releasing the highest quality blues artists reminding us of  glorious material from the past, but also nurturing current talent.

Cash Box Kings Website

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