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.
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.
Over the course of his career, Ellis has shared stages with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, The Allman Brothers, Leon Russell, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. Whether he’s on stage with his own band or jamming with artists like Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always plays with grit, soul and unbridled passion.
Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
Over the course of his career, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tommy Castro – a six-time Blues Music Award-winner – has played thousands of shows to hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans. Castro, along with his band, The Painkillers -- bassist Randy McDonald, keyboardist Michael Emerson and drummer Bowen Brown -- plays music that is guaranteed to fill the floor and raise the roof. With seemingly telepathic musicianship, the Painkillers bring an unmatched passion to Castro’s blue-eyed California soul and hard-rocking, good-time songs. Delivering the songs from his brand new Alligator release, Stompin’ Ground, Castro both looks back with autobiographical originals and cover songs that inspired him, melding contemporary lyrics with blistering blues-rock. No Depression says, “Castro plays gritty, string bending blues like a runaway soul train…a glorious blend that rocks the soul and lifts the spirits.”