Recording information: The Schoolhouse.
Johnny Winter begins Raisin' Cain, his ninth studio album since signing to CBS Records in 1969 (his records are now issued on the Blue Sky subsidiary), with "The Crawl," a rock & roll dance tune, and he ends it with "Walkin' Slowly," which employs a Fats Domino-style New Orleans rhythm and the saxophone work of Tom Strohman. The two songs serve to reinforce Winter's allegiance to his roots in `50s rock, which define him as much as his blues work. In between these bookends, he presents his usual mixture of familiar cover songs and specially written (by others, that is) material, all of which serves, as usual, to showcase his fast-fingered lead guitar playing. His slide guitar dominates "Sittin' in the Jail House," for example, while much of the disc's second side is played in a Chicago blues style that recalls his recent efforts as producer to give Muddy Waters a late-career renaissance, notably the side-opening performance of Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'." A notable inclusion is a cover of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." It's not the first time Winter has covered Dylan, of course, but it's hard to say why he did so here. He doesn't bring anything special to his rendition, essentially recreating the Dylan recording except that it's his vocal and guitar playing. As part of the big contract he signed with CBS, he was given creative control of his records and, as here, he is generally the producer as well as the artist. The water-treading of Raisin' Cain suggests that a new approach is in order, maybe an outside producer who can bring a different perspective or somebody to look for good songs (instead of the two mediocre ones written by Winter's bass player that are here), if the artist isn't going to write his own material. ~ William Ruhlmann