Winter still front and center in blues genre

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Johnny Winter and his band will play the Newport Music Hall Friday, Feb. 14. The Scotty Bratcher Band opens. Tickets are $22.50/$25. Visit

As legendary blues-rock guitarist Johnny Winter nears his 70th birthday -- to be celebrated Feb. 23 with a show by the birthday man himself at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grille in New York City -- he shows no inclination to take it easy.

Winter and his band are on a tour that culminates with the birthday gig, a performance which also celebrates the release of a four-CD boxed set True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story. In March, a documentary on Winter's life, which includes footage shot as a crew traveled with Winter to gigs around the world during the past two years, will debut at the SXSW Film Festival. The film is titled Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty, and of the omnipresent film crew Winter told The Beat, "It didn't bother me a bit. I kind of liked it."

He's also got a new record, Roots II, coming out later this spring. The record features Winter joined by a host of outstanding ax-men, including Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons and Joe Bonamassa, not to mention keyboard whiz Dr. John.

"I just look forward to playing," Winter stated simply, adding that he was happy to play clubs and concert halls with his current band or in the studio with music legends.

"I'm enjoying everything. If I didn't like it, I probably wouldn't do it."

Asked if he feels like he's still learning things about playing the guitar, and if he's better now than he was 20, 30 or 40 years ago, Winter proved once again to be matter-of-fact.

"I've pretty much got it down by now," he joked.

"I might have been a little better 20, 30 years ago, but not much."