Keyboard Legend Reese Wynans’ “Sweet Release”
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member and world-renowned Nashville-based keyboardist Reese Wynans releases his first-ever solo album Sweet Release today; a collection of songs honoring a paramount selection of blues-rock legends. The much anticipated album comes following a career that’s spanned over 50 years and literally hundreds of historical collaborations. Sweet Release also serves as Joe Bonamassa’s inaugural credit as a producer. Bonamassa has long been a fan of Wynans’ work, urging him to create a solo album and championing the project as producer. Today, the album is available to stream and/or purchase via reesewynans.com , jbonamassa.com and all major music services and in stores.
Reese Wynans is everywhere. For a full half-century, Wynans has been the engine-room behind America’s greatest roots music. With Sweet Release, this modest legend has delivered the long-awaited solo album that puts his own name top of the bill and places his world-class talent in the spotlight. “I’ve never had an album out with my name on it before,” he considers, “so I’m very excited. I’d like this record to make people feel happy and celebrate the music. Because that’s what we were doing…”
” Reese inspires me every day,” Bonamassa professes. “He encouraged me and was the heart and soul of the entire session. All the guest artists performed brilliantly and totally brought their best stuff from the very down beat. It was not lost on Reese nor me how blessed we were to work with such talent. All I know is what I know … I love the man… He is as gracious and a gentleman as he is talented and an icon.”
Scan the history books and he’s there on every page: a vital strand of rock ‘n’ roll DNA, present at a thousand cultural flashpoints. Over the last five decades, you might have found him cutting his teeth with the early nucleus of the Allman Brothers Band or taking the stage with Boz Scaggs. Maybe you remember him bringing on the rise of Outlaw Country in Austin with Jerry Jeff Walker or saving the ’80s blues scene with Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductees Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble or most recently bringing his blues to the people with Joe Bonamassa. Adding his thumbprint on piano and B3, Reese has worked with the likes of Larry Carlton, Delbert McClinton, Los Lonely Boys, Joe Ely, Doug Sahm, Brooks & Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Hank Williams Jr., Buddy Guy – and many more. Not to mention, his roughly 500 live shows with Willie Nelson, unforgettable performance with Captain Beyond for the Sufficiently Breathless record, and three albums with Carole King.
“These songs are windows back into different eras and different times of my career,” explains Wynans. “It’s a collection of the songs I’ve played with musicians in the past, and it shines a light on blues artists that I think need a little bit more recognition.”
In the late-’60s, Wynans was playing alongside future blues-rock royalty in Florida up-and-comers, the Second Coming. “Dickey Betts was one of our guitar players and our bass player was Berry Oakley,” he says. “Duane Allman was in Muscle Shoals at the time and would come down on a weekend and sit in with us. For Sweet Release, we covered the old Les Dudek song, “Take The Time”, which reminds me of being back in Jacksonville during the dawn of that Southern rock era.”
Other songs salute the ’70s, when the keys man could be found flanking Boz Scaggs as the rising songwriter established his reputation on the West Coast. For Wynans, “Sweet Release” of Scaggs’ acclaimed catalogue shone brightest, and decades later, it gives Sweet Release its title track.
Of course, the Sweet Release tracklisting wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the great Stevie Ray Vaughan. In 1985, Wynans’ world changed forever when the iconic Texas bluesman drafted him into the Double Trouble band for the era-defining Soul To Soul and In Step albums. “It was unbelievable to play on a stage with those guys,” he remembers. “I have to tell you that I hardly ever heard Stevie play a bad note. He was on his game every single night. The Stevie songs on Sweet Release – “Crossfire”, “Say What!”, “Riviera Paradise” and “Hard To Be” – are our tribute to him.”
In 1990, SRV’s tragic death robbed the blues world of an all-time great and Wynans of a cherished friend. But the keys man bravely brushed himself off and walked on, soon becoming one of Nashville’s most in-demand players with credits for headline acts including Lee Roy Parnell, Brooks & Dunn and Hank Williams Jr.
In 2015, the seed of a solo album was planted when post-millennial blues master Joe Bonamassa called up with a tantalizing offer. “He wanted to do a series of shows at Red Rocks where we would feature the music of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters,” says Wynans. “And y’know, that’s right up my alley. So things went on from there.”
Now, Sweet Release feels like a musician coming home. Wynans was already a familiar face at Ocean Way: the Nashville studio where he’d previously added fairy-dust to endless tracks for other artists. And when sessions began for his own solo album, it was a joy to reconnect with the Double Trouble rhythm section of Tommy Shannon (bass) and Chris Layton (drums) – plus modern guitar great Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Meanwhile, Bonamassa lent his own famed guitar skills to SRV moments like “Riviera Paradise”.
Throughout his celebrated career, the one omission on Wynans’ résumé was that this fabled keys man had never released a solo record – until now. Sweet Release is a glorious collision of stellar musicianship, classic material given fresh mojo, and a glittering roll-call of star guests that confirms the deep respect Wynans commands on the scene.