Johnny Winter

Guitar Slinger
Johnny Winter

Texas-born guitarist/vocalist Johnny Winter, who died at 70 in 2014, was steeped in the blues, but many of his big FM hits were rock-oriented. He ultimately boomeranged back to straight blues, and one highlight from this return to that comfort zone was 1984’s Guitar Slinger. The Grammy-nominated album was his first of three releases on Alligator Records, and has now been reissued on 140-gram vinyl, making it available for the first time in 30 years.

Guitar Slinger doesn’t include any Winter originals, but he sounds fully engaged and energized on his interpretations. Johnny’s singing is forceful and guitar work is more scalding than boiling water. The wicked slide playing on “It’s My Life, Baby” is otherworldly. The joint slide solo with Billy Branch’s harmonica solo crush Muddy Waters’ “Iodine in My Coffee.” Winter’s notes on “Boot Hill” fly like popcorn in a popper. “Lights Out” is an exciting ’50s-style kicker with tenor sax and Winter’s buzzing solo.

It’s important to note that this reissue replaces “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” with the previously unreleased Lightnin’ Slim cover “Nothin’ But the Devil” featuring harmonica legend James Cotton. For Winter fans and vinyl purists, this batch o’ blues is a no-brainer.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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