Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Reese Wynans is getting ready to release his debut solo album Sweet Release.
World-renowned Nashville-based keyboardist Reese Wynans is currently getting ready to release his first-ever solo album Sweet Release, a collection of songs honouring a paramount selection of blues-rock legends. The long-anticipated album comes following a career that’s spanned over 50 years and literally hundreds of historical collaborations.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Reese Wynans to talk about his debut album, his time with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble and his plans for the rest of 2019.
NRR: So you’re getting ready to release your debut solo album, which is called Sweet Release, it’s going to be released on the 1st March via Provogue / Mascot Label Group. I just wondered, you know, with a career spanning over 50 years, what was it that made you decide that at this point right now it was the right time to release your debut solo album?
Reese: Well it has been a long time coming. A friend of mine said you should call the album ‘It’s About Time’. The truth is, I’m not a great songwriter, I’m not an upfront singer, I’m not a rock star – I never really thought about putting out my own record till a couple of years ago and I thought maybe I should do one. And so I wrote a couple of instrumentals and thought that this would be it, but then I wasn’t that happy with the way they came out. So I decided not to put a record out, but I told Joe, my guitar player boss Joe Bonamassa about the way it worked out and he said, well, that’s a shame. He said, well, I think you should have done this. I think you should have done a bunch of vocals of the songs that you had played on in the past and release that. And I said, what a great idea Joe, I wish I wish I would have thought of that, that’s something that maybe people would want to hear. And so then I talked to him into producing the record and here you have it Sweet Release coming out March 1st.
NRR: So obviously you’ve worked with a who’s who of the rock and blues world. I just wondered you know, did you always feel that you had a solo album in you that was waiting to get out all this time?
Reese: Occasionally, if you just sit down and you start writing songs, you just come out with things. Occasionally I would think that I should work harder, I should put something out, but I’m so busy touring and I’m totally satisfied with being a piano player, you know. We’ll see how things go with this. This is a whole new experience for me. If this goes well, maybe who knows, maybe we’ll put out another one next year. We’ll see what happens.
NRR: So, you’ve got three songs on the record which honour your time with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the shape of “Crossfire”, “Say What”, “Riviera Paradise” and “Hard To Be”. And you also brought in the Double Trouble rhythm section of Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton to perform on those tracks. I just wondered, what was it like getting the band back together after all this time?
Reese: Well Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, If I’m going to pay tribute to Stevie and play some of our old songs, they’re the guys I want to play with. And Kenny Wayne Shepherd was up there and he’s the perfect choice for guitar on that stuff and he played the guitar on “Say What”. He and Joe both played on “Crossfire” and the same on “Riviera Paradise”. We had a different rhythm section for “Hard To Be”. But the other song that Chris and Tommy played on is “I’m Doing Pretty Good For The Shape I’m In”, which was an Arc Angels song. So it was great playing with those guys. It was like right back into the groove again, they didn’t miss a note. It was fantastic right from the first song, we hardly had to play the songs more than twice. I mean it was perfect right off the bat and that was the first thing we did when we cut this record is the Stevie songs and they came out beautiful I think. It really set up the whole recording process, it was nothing but positive and beautiful from then on.
NRR: I just wondered, having spent that period of time with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble what was your fondest memory of playing with the band.
Reese: Well, of course, I have a lifetime of wonderful memories working with them. I guess the big memory I have of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble is when I first joined the band. I was welcomed warmly in the band by everyone and I’d expected whenever we would go play shows that I would just play the songs, the new songs, that we had just recorded. But Stevie insisted that I play everything and so I really felt welcomed and I felt the love from him. And you know, there’s been so many wonderful nights and everything from Red Rocks to Radio City Music Hall. It was just one fantastic performance after another to me.
NRR: So obviously you’ve got a whole raft of guests on this record including Joe Bonamassa, Sam Moore, Jack Pearson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb Mo, Warren Haynes and like we said your Double Trouble colleagues to name, but a few. I just wondered, did you have each of these artists in mind from the beginning of the project to play on those songs or did the collaborations just kind of come together organically?
Reese: That’s a good question. Chris and Tommy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd to do the Stevie stuff, there’s no question about that. I wanted Doyle Bramhall to do the Otis Rush song, there was no question about that. I wanted Keb Mo to do one of the Tampa Red songs. I wanted Sam Moore to do “Crossfire”. Warren Haynes and Bonnie Bramlett were Joe Bonamassa’s idea and I think they worked out beautifully. Vince Gill was Joe’s idea. Mike Ferris was my idea and Jimmy Hall was my idea. So, it was a combination of the two of us. We know so many people that we had a who’s who of people that we could call and that’s what we did on this.
NRR: I think one of the most interesting names, when I was reading initially about this project, was seeing Sam Moore’s name listed on there because I don’t really see his name mentioned around much these days. So I just wondered how did that collaboration come to fruition?
Reese: Well, that’s an interesting story too. Way back in the day when we were writing “Crossfire”, Chris, Tommy and myself and the guy who wrote our lyrics, Bill and his wife Ruth Carter, we’re writing “Crossfire”. Tommy came up with this bass riff and we were starting to put this song together and somebody said, might’ve been me or somebody else said this song should be for Sam and Dave. And I was telling Joe Bonamassa about that story and he said, well, let’s just call Sam and see if we can get him to sing it. And so Joe called Sam and next thing you know, he wants to sing that song and it worked out great.
NRR: Obviously you’ve worked with the greats of the rock and blues world and this record touches upon many of those relationships that you forged over the years. I just wondered you know, how did you decide on the tracks to perform on Sweet Release? It must have been a really difficult decision to kind of narrow it down to 10 or 12 songs.
Reese: Well, there was a lot of songs that I picked and there was a couple that Joe picked too. All the ones that I wanted to do are on there. There’s a couple that Joe picked, he picked a Les Dudek song. He picked the Otis Rush song and he picked the funky instrumental. Most of the rest of them are ones that I picked. So it was a compromise, and that was the most difficult part of this is picking out which songs to leave off.
NRR: Do you have a particular favourite song on the album? And if so, which song and why?
Reese: That’s a good question. There’s a bunch of different kinds of songs on this record. My wife loves “Sweet Release”, that’s her favourite song. My favourite is right now I think it’s “Hard To Be” is my favourite song, sort of New Orleans Delaney and Bonnie kind of approach to that. Joe’s favourite song is “Crossfire” or sometimes I really love “You’re Killing My Love” that Otis Rush song because Doyle did such a wonderful job of it. So somebody just said their favourite is “Doing Pretty Good For The Shape I’m In” because it’s got that boogie-woogie piano breakdown. So, you know, hopefully, this will be a record that everybody’s got their own favourite song on it.
NRR: So obviously Sweet Release is also Joe’s first album as a producer. I know you’ve worked with Joe for many years, being part of his band and also you’ve got many of your Bonamassa band mates featured on the record as well. But I was just wondering what was it like working with Joe in a production capacity and what did he bring to the table.
Reese: Okay, so I couldn’t think of anybody else who could produce this and do the kind of job that Joe did. He was totally on board with the whole concept. And as a producer, you know, your job is you have to make some of the tough decisions, you have to make some decisions about arrangements about personnel and he was great on all that. And he also added supportive guitar tracks when he thought they were necessary. You know, he would talk the vocalists through their parts. It was just hands-on with everything and I have to say for a first time producer, he acted like an old pro, he was fantastic. Hardly any missteps at all.
NRR: Obviously with so many contributors on this record, I just wondered was there anyone that you wanted to get on the album to collaborate with who you didn’t manage to include this time around?
Reese: Yeah, you know there is a couple, I know why they couldn’t make it and it was through no fault of their own. I would have loved to have Gary Clark singing a slow blues. I would have loved to have Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks playing something on Sweet Release. But, I like I the way it turned out just fine, I’m not disappointed with the way it turned out, you know. And then there’ll probably be another record next year if this turns out well, so we’ll see what happens then.
NRR: Do you have any plans to perform any live shows in support of Sweet Release?
Reese: I don’t have any qualms about it at all. The only issue is as far as performing live, it would be scheduling and trying to schedule these people that are on the record is going to be tough because everybody’s so busy. I would love it, I would actually love to perform some of these songs live and we’ll just have to see what happens with that.
NRR: I just wanted to also talk to you about The Second Coming because I know you were there at sort of the earliest roots of The Allman Brothers Band. I just wondered if you could tell us a little bit about your experiences with the band back in those days.
Reese: Oh sure, when I joined The Second Coming, Dickey Betts was the guitar player, one of the guitar players. Larry Reinhardt was another guitar player. Both of them are from the Sarasota area where I live. Berry Oakley was the bass player who had recently moved to Sarasota to play in some sort of local bands down there. So all these people with The Second Coming left Sarasota to go to Jacksonville to do a house Gig, at a psychedelic nightclub called The Scene. And if you can imagine a psychedelic nightclub in 1968, the strobe lights and flashing dance floor, liquid projection screens on the wall and our band playing sort of stretched out versions of Doors songs and Hendrix songs. That’s kind of what this was like and we were doing mostly cover songs at the time. Larry Reinhardt “Rhino” would do the Hendrix stuff, Dickie would do the blues stuff. We all lived together in a hotel, in separate rooms at the hotel and then we had a big house that we all later moved into. We would play at the club six nights a week and on Sundays, we would go down and play for free at one of the local parks. So it was a beautiful love thing you know, we just loved playing and we loved playing for those people. And if you think about how the Allman Brothers got started, I believe they started playing free shows in the park in Atlanta, which was sort of their starting point. So we did the same thing.
NRR: In terms of your own musical tastes, what kind of music do you listen to when you are kicking back at home?
Reese: Well, I like Oscar Peterson, I like Dave Matthews. I occasionally listen to Hans Zimmer. Then I also like Muddy Waters and Jimmy Smith and Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Mose Allison. Mostly older kind of stuff. As far as the younger bands, I really like The Tedeschi Trucks Band, I like the Markus King Band. I wish I had more new music so I have to get some guidance, that’s something that’s on my list is to find out some more modern young bands that I like listening to.
NRR: Obviously, it’s the start of a brand new year. I just wondered do you have 2019 mapped out, you know, what are your plans for this year?
Reese: We have 100 shows with Joe Bonamassa. He has two cruises that he’s doing this year. We have a recording this summer, a new Joe record. We’re going to make it at Abbey Road. Of course, there’s the whole Reese Wynan’s cd and who knows what’s gonna happen with that. If good things happen with that maybe we’ll do some Reese Wynan’s dates somewhere along the line. That remains to be seen.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. We really appreciate your time today. Good luck with everything you’ve got going on with the album, and with Joe, and hopefully we’ll catch up with you again very soon.
Reese: Anytime, it’s my pleasure. Thank you very much.
Reese Wynans will be releasing his debut solo album Sweet Release on March 1st via Provogue/Mascot Label Group.
Header Photo: Adam Kennedy