Guitar Red: Debut Album ‘Lightnin’ in a Bottle’

This past summer, Decatur, Georgia based blues guitarist and singer Guitar Red fulfilled an unexpected lifelong dream, going literally from breadlines to headlines with the release of his debut album Lightnin' In A Bottle.

As the first release by newly launched Atlanta indie label Backspace Records, the day could have easily called for a dual celebration and a record release party at a local hotspot.

Instead, the 44 year-old street musician—real name, Billy Christian Walls—spent the day doing what he always does around the square of Decatur, strumming his guitar and singing songs of women, drinking and hard times in the raw, unvarnished tradition of real blues. Not those slick modern pop-rock blues of Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal and B.B. King—no offense meant to those legends at all. But those raw, Robert Johnson blues that can only come from knowing hunger, poverty, heartache, loss, drug and alcohol addiction, not to mention homelessness.

Blues publications and journalists across the country are lining up to sing his praises. Red and Lightnin' In A Bottle recently won two key prizes in Real Blues Magazine's Annual Real Blues Awards: Best Debut Blues CD and Best New Blues Artist. In its original review, the publication raved: "Acoustic/Country Blues Album of The Year. It's been 3 or 4 years since anything this important, entertaining and moving has come out of North American Blues."

Blues Underground Network called the album "a true debut blues masterpiece, " while Blogcritics Magazine wrote: "I'd lay odds that when he plays street corners, not only do people stop, but traffic does too…Guitar Red's music has more energy and vitality than most bands, and hundreds of times more personality than 90 percent of any musicians I've ever heard. Pure, unadulterated heart and soul." Red's hometown Atlanta Journal-Constitution added simply, "The Real Thing."

Founded by Ben and Kimberly Rowell, Backspace Records' roster also includes rocker Mark Gaignard & The Also Ran, young Atlanta based singer/songwriter Brandon Swift and The Baby Grands, an adult ensemble that writes and plays what the label calls "alt-rock for kids."

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