Monday Morning Video: Johnny Winter (1944-2014)

We lost Johnny Winter last week.  Johnny, known for his blistering fast guitar playing, burst onto the national scene as a solo act in the late 1960s.  A guitar prodigy, Johnny and younger brother Edgar – both albino – had formed a band as they were growing up in Beaumont, Texas, and had a single released when Johnny was just 15 and Edgar 12 or 13.  Over the years, Johnny often shared the stage or studio with his brother, but their careers were distinct.  Johnny stayed faithful to blues throughout his career, with occasional forays into rock, while Edgar has been more of a rocker.  Johnny’s guitar playing ability was astounding, but he also built his legacy by producing several of Muddy Waters’ late-career masterpieces, including Hard Again and King Bee.

The years and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle took their toll on Johnny.  When I saw him three years ago, he needed to be helped onto the stage and performed his entire show seated, but the music was still there as he played effortlessly.  Below are some memories.

Johnny in his prime:

In 1987, starting to show the years, but still in great playing shape:

This past year on Letterman, very decrepit with apparent vision issues, but the music was still there:



Mayer’s Picks – The Best of 2014, So Far (the Albums)

The year is off to a strong start and I expect that it will only get better. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite releases from the first half of 2014.

Somewhere Else, Lydia Loveless


“Simply bad-ass” is the phrase that overwhelms my thinking every time I give this album a listen. Loveless isn’t one to pull any punches and her rocking band gets in more than a few jabs of their own. This is my kinda rock and roll.

Key Tracks: Really Wanna See You, Wine Lips, Head, Verlaine Shot Rimbaud, Somewhere Else

Featured Twangville coverage of Lydia Loveless: Mayer’s Playlist for Feb/Mar 2014, Part 1, Monday Morning Video: Lydia Loveless, and Monday Morning Video: Lydia Loveless

Alexandria, Chris Mills


There has long been something magical in Mills’ writing and his latest release is no exception. Mills wears his musical heart on his sleeve, crafting songs that are filled with emotion and intensity which he then brings to life with a voice that is passionate and full of conviction.

Key Tracks: Alexandria, Rubicon, Blooms, The Sweet Hereafter, Quiet Corners

Featured Twangville coverage of Chris Mills: Mayer’s Playlist for January 2014, Part 2, Monday Morning Video: Chris Mills, and Monday Morning Video: Chris Mills

Hard Working Americans


You never know what you’re going to get when a “super group” of musicians come together. Leave it to the newly formed Hard Working Americans to demonstrate how to do it right. They hit the bulls-eye twice, first with their stand-out performances and musicianship. Second, by covering a collection of songs written by some of theirs – and my – favorite songwriters.

Key Tracks: Another Train, Down to the Well, Stomp and Holler, Welfare Music

Featured Twangville coverage of Hard Working Americans: Mayer’s Playlist for January 2014, Part 1

Drive-By Truckers


Are you ready to rock? Well the Truckers certainly are. English Oceans finds Patterson Hood in fine story-telling form and Mike Cooley filling his songs with plenty of piss and vinegar. The results are pretty damn potent.

Key Tracks: Shit Shots Count, Primer Coat, Pauline Hawkins, Hearing Jimmy Loud, When Walter Went Crazy, Grand Canyon

Featured Twangville coverage of Drive-By Truckers: Mayer’s Playlist for Feb/Mar 2014, Part 2 and Drive By Truckers – Live at Track 29 in Chattanooga, TN

Chuck Ragan


Ragan has found a way to marry his punk pedigree with the edgier side of Americana. Let’s call it rustic punk… and a mighty fine listen.

Key Tracks: Something May Catch Fire, Vagabond, Non Typical, Bedroll Lullaby, Gave My Heart Out

Featured Twangville coverage of Chuck Ragan: Mayer’s Playlist for January 2014, Part 1.

Sarah Borges


Borges returned from her musical hiatus by releasing what is arguably the best album of her career. Radio Sweetheart bristles with swagger and attitude, not to mention plenty of guitar-driven punch.

Key Tracks: Girl With a Bow, Think of What You’ve Done, The Waiting and the Worry, Start Again, Record on Repeat

Featured Twangville coverage of Sarah Borges: Happy Valentine’s Day: Radio Sweetheart from Sarah Borges , Monday Morning Video: Amy Black, Girls Guns & Glory and Sarah Borges , and More Video Fun from Sarah Borges, Amy Black and Girls Guns & Glory

Girls Guns and Glory


While they remain true to their love of Hank Williams and vintage country, Girls Guns and Glory let their rock and roll colors fly on Good Luck. It makes for one rollicking good time.

Key Tracks: All the Way Up to Heaven, Be Your Man, One of These Days, C’Mon Honey, Rockin’ Chair Money, It’s Your Choice

Featured Twangville coverage of Girls Guns and Glory: Mass Ave – A Special Boston Playlist , Photos that Rock: Girls Guns and Glory , and Girls Guns and Glory at the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse

Parker Millsap


The Oklahoma native sets a high bar for himself with an outstanding debut release, deftly mixing up a stew of country gospel, folk and bluegrass.

Key Tracks: Old Time Religion, Truck Stop Gospel, The Villain, Quite Contrary, When I Leave

Featured Twangville coverage of Parker Millsap: Mayer’s Playlist for January 2014, Part 2, and Old Settlers Music Fest 2014 Edition .

Jesse Winchester, In Memoriam

April is shaping up as a difficult world in the world of music. This past week we lost Jesse Winchester, whose soft-spoken style belied the power of his songs.

Here are two magical Winchester performances. The first is an early (and often covered) classic “Defying Gravity.” The second is the celebrated appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle show, where Winchester reduced Neko Case to tears with the delicately stunning “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding.”

SXSW 2014 — Say What?!

One of my favorite parts of SXSW is the crazy things you see and hear along the way. Here are a few choice selections.

We’ve got about 20 minutes to make you love us. Chris Masterson stating what could be the SXSW mantra.

One in, one out. The other SXSW mantra, overheard at the men’s room.

It’s worth the wait. Don’t fucking give up hope. Guy leaving the men’s room, to those waiting in line.

It’s not on the record because mom listens to the record and it’s a little risqué. Andrew Duhon introducing an unreleased song.

You’ve got three more free drinks. Bartender
Is that a challenge? My response

The album is a tribute to brotherly love. It’s not necessarily about us, but the concept of brotherly love. Dave Alvin on his new album recorded with his brother Phil.

I’ve been in the polar Vortex all winter. There’s a word I never want to hear again. Archie Powell

He owes me money. Stage manager at the Continental Club when Garland Jeffreys went over his allotted set time.

It’s all licks. Note at the bottom of the iPad displaying the music for Garland Jeffreys’ guitarist

We’ve been a band for about 13 years and this is our first time playing the Continental Club. It’s kinda like our bar mitzvah. Riverboat Gamblers lead singer Mike Wiebe

I’m trying to get a record deal. I’m growing a beard. Jesse Malin

Nobody had the balls to say “Elvis, you’re a bit fat. Have an apple. BP Fallon

Getting on the plane it was like summer camp for musicians. Rusty Anderson, on traveling to Austin

It’s the sound of SXSW. It’s really great music blended with really great music from somewhere else. Ellis Paul, on the proximity of music venues to one another during SXSW

I’ll try to play everything in the same key and at the same tempo as the band across the street. Ellis Paul, a few minutes later.

I apologize for the state of my voice but I’ve had a fucking great time. Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage at the end of his SXSW run of shows.

South by South shit show. Ward Hayden of Girls Guns and Glory, reflecting on a portion of his SXSW experience

I’m not just here to entertain ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to teach. John Doe, on his SXSW experience

A friend of mine’s mother asked me why I don’t write more songs about Jesus. So I wrote this song which has nothing to do with Jesus. Andrew Duhon, introducing his song “Just Another Beautiful Girl”

We’ve all just learned a valuable lesson. Don’t open with a song that requires tuning. Urge Overkill’s Nash Kato

Chris, on the other hand, is a slut and will go home with any man woman or child. John Doe introducing his band.

Anyone know any jokes? We literally can’t play without power. Archie Powell, after the power blew in the middle of his band’s set

We’re like that old pair of Chuck Taylor’s that you can’t throw away. Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage, on the band’s longevity.

This song is about what all of my songs are about. Lydia Loveless, introducing “I Really Wanna See You Again”

Has the rain stopped? Has anyone checked their handheld device? T. Hardy Morris to the crowd standing in an outdoor parking lot.

This is a song about living in my car. (crowd applause) I’m glad we can cheer about it now. It wasn’t so much fun back then. Micah Schnabel of Two Cow Garage

Click HERE for more Twangville coverage of SXSW.