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Homegrown

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Tinsley Ellis

Tinsley Ellis

Winning Hand

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"Feral blues guitar...non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge...his eloquence dazzles...he achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton." –Rolling Stone "Ellis unleashes a torrent of dazzling musicianship pitched between the exhilarating volatility of rock and roll and the passion of urban blues." –Los Angeles Times Since his Alligator debut 30 years ago, Southern blues-rock guitar wizard, vocalist and songwriter Tinsley Ellis has become a bona fide worldwide guitar hero. The Chicago Sun-Times says, “It’s hard to overstate the raw power of his music.” Now, he makes his triumphant return to Alligator Records with a powerful new album, Winning Hand. Armed with his signature molten licks, melodic riffs and rousing, intense solos, Ellis, as his legions of fans will attest, is among the blues world’s best-loved, hardest working and most well-travelled statesmen. He has performed in all 50 United States as well as in Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia and South America, earning legions of fans with his guitar virtuosity, passionate vocals and memorable original songs. Ellis is also revered as a guitarist’s guitarist, with famous friends including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Jonny Lang and members of Widespread Panic calling on him to sit in and jam. “A musician never got famous staying home,” he says. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Ellis and keyboardist Kevin McKendree, the ten brilliantly performed, fervently sung tracks on Winning Hand include nine originals, ranging from blistering blues to heart-pounding rock to soulful ballads. As his only cover song, Ellis pays tribute to his greatest guitar-playing and songwriting influences with a Freddie King-inspired version of rock legend Leon Russell’s Dixie Lullaby. “Guitar, guitar, guitar is what this album is all about,” says Ellis, who recorded primarily with his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, his 1967 Gibson ES 345 and his 1973 Les Paul Deluxe. Guitar World says, “Ellis’ playing sparkles with depth and subtlety. Whether playing deep, slow blues or uptempo rockers, Ellis rides a gorgeously fat, pure tone.” Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis was raised in southern Florida. He discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One night he and a friend were listening to records when his friend’s older brother told them if they liked blues, they should really be listening to B.B. King. As luck would have it, King was in town for a week, and the upcoming Saturday afternoon show was just for teenagers. Tinsley and his friend went, sitting transfixed in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. After the show, B.B. came out and talked with fans, mesmerizing Tinsley with his warmth and kindness. Tinsley’s fate was now sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. He saw Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and every other blues artist who came through town, always sitting up front, always waiting to meet the artists, take photos, get autographs. And yes, he still has B.B.’s string. Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in 1975. He soon joined a gritty local blues band, the Alley Cats. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting a few Heartfixers albums for the Landslide label, Ellis was ready to head out on his own. Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit the unprepared public by surprise in 1988. Critics and fans quickly agreed that a new and original guitar hero had emerged. The Chicago Tribune said, “Tinsley Ellis torches with molten fretwork. Ellis takes class...

Tinsley Ellis
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Curtis Salgado

Curtis Salgado

Rough Cut

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Award-winning soul, blues and R&B vocalist Curtis Salgado’s earth-shaking vocals and forceful harmonica playing have been devastating audiences around the world for over 30 years. Guitarist Alan Hager has been wowing fellow musicians from his hometown of Portland, Oregon and beyond for decades. Hager has been jamming with Salgado since 2003, and joined his band full-time in 2015. Together, the two blues fans and friends took time out of their busy touring schedule to record Rough Cut, a stripped-down album featuring a potent mix of newly written, timeless originals and carefully chosen blues covers. “We did it for the love of the music,” says Salgado. “This is where our hearts are. These are deep songs that we love to play.” That love comes through loud and clear on Rough Cut. Produced by Salgado and Hager, the 13 songs on the album (including six originals) range from plaintive to playful. Recorded in one live unrehearsed take, the original I Will Not Surrender, with its haunting and sparse soundscape, showcases some of Hager’s strongest guitar work, and some of the most profoundly emotive vocals Salgado has ever laid down. The canine-lover’s anthem, I Want My Dog To Live Longer (The Greatest Wish), is already a huge fan favorite. Salgado’s soulful singing and Hager’s elegant slide guitar playing shine on Elmore James’ You Got To Move and Muddy Waters’ I Can’t Be Satisfied. “He’s the best player in the business, unlike anybody else,” Salgado says of Hager. “One reason I made this record was to show him off.” Born in Portland, Oregon, Alan Hager has taken a long and fascinating journey to his current spot as lead guitarist in Salgado’s band. He first picked up a guitar at age ten and became a blues and jazz prodigy. He was playing local clubs as a teenager before heading to Boston’s Berklee School Of Music, where he studied under the tutelage of jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny. A year later he was studying classical music at the famed New England Conservatory of Music, where he graduated in 1979. During the 1980s he toured as part of a classical guitar duo and took up teaching, which he still does. But he never fell out of love with the blues, especially the old Delta sounds of Charlie Patton, Tommy Johnson and Skip James. He moved back to Portland in 1988 and soon met fellow blues aficionado Curtis Salgado. They have been making music together since 2003, with Curtis’ voice and harmonica and Alan’s hypnotic guitar work perfectly complementing each other. Born in Everett, Washington, Curtis Salgado grew up in Eugene, Oregon. By his early 20s, he was already making a name for himself on Eugene’s bar scene with his band The Nighthawks, and later as co-leader of The Robert Cray Band. Salgado quickly developed into a player and singer of remarkable depth, with vocal and musical influences including Otis Redding, O.V. Wright, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I and II, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf and Magic Sam. NPR calls him “a blues icon” with a “huge voice.” In 1977, Salgado met actor John Belushi while the comedian was filming Animal House. Salgado and Belushi spent hours playing old records, with Belushi soaking up the music like a sponge. He used his new blues knowledge to create the The Blues Brothers. Once Salgado joined forces with The Robert Cray Band, he shared stages with many of his heroes, including Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, Albert Collins and Bonnie Raitt. He fronted Roomful Of Blues, singing and touring with them from 1984 through 1986. Forming his own band, he released the first of his ten solo albums in 1991. Salgado joined Alligator Records in 2012, debuting with the award-winning, critically acclaimed Soul Shot in 2012 followed by The Beautiful Lowdown in 2016. Salgado won three 2013 Blues Music Awards including the coveted B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year. He also won for Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year, and for Soul Blues Al...

Curtis Salgado
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Mary Gauthier

Mary Gauthier

Rifles & Rosary Beads

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Rifles and Rosary Beads is a brand new collection of songs by Mary Gauthier, co-written with U.S. veterans and their families, through Songwriting With Soldiers, a non-profit organization that pairs US veterans with professional songwriters. These songs are a glimpse inside the hearts and souls of both male and female soldiers, and their spouses.

Mary Gauthier
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Various Artists

Strange Angels: In Flight With Elmore James" brings together a group of amazing artists to pay tribute to the legendary Elmore James in this 13-song collections of his classic blues standards. Warren Haynes, Billy Gibbons, and Mickey Raphael feature on a rendition of "Mean Mistreatin' Mama". Crooner Tom Jones lends his voice to "Done Somebody Wrong". Keb Mo' performs "Look On Yonder Wall" and Bettye LaVette sings "Person To Person". Also featured are Rodney Crowell, Jamey Johnson, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Chuck E. Weiss, and many more! Proceeds benefit Musicares and Edible Schoolyard NYC.

Various Artists
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Steep Canyon Rangers

Steep Canyon Rangers

Out In The Open

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The sessions that produced Out In The Open were brisk and instinctive, expansive yet intimate, visceral and immediate - and they would have had to be, for herein are songs that tell the big story by drawing the small ones. There is, to my ear, as much of Raymond Carver's literate and humane influence on display as the Osborne Brothers, as much Welty in the pointed details - both sublime and confounding - as Clark and Van Zandt. Compassion and determination act as connective tissue when, throughout this song cycle, the bones, muscle, and blood of daily life dance with loose-limbed motion toward the inevitable, guided by an ethos best articulated by Sam Beckett who directed that when we falter, we try again and ''fail better.''

While in the studio, the Rangers stood in a circle - facing each other and the music with a well-worn brotherhood that was as well open to all they could not imagine transpiring between them. The songs were written as a map, and their shared history a compass blade, but the road itself - the journey - was a moving target and, as with all relevant music, remains one. And the Steep Canyon Rangers are moving along with it. - Joe Henry

Steep Canyon Rangers
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Wade Bowen

Wade Bowen

Solid Ground

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Waco native Wade Bowen began recording Solid Ground intent on making the artistic statement of his career - a high bar considering the twenty years of success he's enjoyed - but as his personal odometer rolled over into his fourth decade, his focus is more on legacy than next Saturday night. Solid Ground is personal but not necessarily autobiographical, peppered with distinct south-of-the-border imagery and good-time revelry.

Wade Bowen