When Johnny Winter released his debut album some 43 years ago, the music world was a far less regimented place. Today, a blues artist is considered that and only that -- a pigeonholed, genre-specific performer whose reach will not exceed the already defined target market for the blues. Back then, Winter took the rock world by storm, emerging in a New York City already rife with the nascent rumblings of punk and art-rock as a major figure, and within a few short years, becoming a significant arena star. Winter is likely responsible for turning on countless rock fans to the blues, folks who otherwise might not have fallen beneath the deeply American form's sway.
Today, his fiery playing and deeply Southern soul singing can be heard as an influence on everything from the Tedeschi-Trucks Band to newer outfits like Howlin' Rain, or even the supergroup Black Country Communion. Wherever the blues is played loud and with the conviction of soulful rock 'n' roll, a tip of the hat to Winter's seminal work should be mandatory.
The never-ending road trip continues as Winter approaches his 70th year. With his band -- drummer Vito Liuzzi, second guitarist Paul Nelson and bassist Scott Spray -- in tow, Winter performs at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.). Wanted By the FBI will open. For ticket information, visit www.TralfMusicHall.com.
-- Jeff Miers