Luke Winslow-King’s latest album is an example of craftsmanship at the highest level, radiating a warmth and timeless elegance. Adept at mixing country, blues, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and folk influences intuitively and masterfully, Luke shapes a mood from many sources and shepherds it to a unifying place of acceptance and hope. Blue Mesa is both stately and approachable, manifestly proficient but deeply personal.
What sets this album above the singer and guitarist’s previous work is how he’s absorbed the offerings of a life in music. Born and raised in the Northern Michigan town of Cadillac, he moved to New Orleans at 19 and spent the next 15 years fully immersing himself in the musical waters that flow through there. Now that he’s moved on, it is the larger world, and the people and places in it, that enthralls him. From these travels and friendships comes a deeper and richer perspective on the American musical traditions he fell in love with at an early age.
From the first track, Luke effortlessly draws the listener into his genre-expansive, dynamic world. “You Got Mine,” co-written with friend and legendary local musician “Washboard” Lissa Driscoll (who passed away in September 2017), enchants with its laid back grace. Delicate touches of Paul Simon and Robert Cray color this paean to unconditional friendship and camaraderie. With crisp guitar lines evoking Mike Campbell, the gospel-tinged call-to-action “Break Down the Walls” and the easy-country amble “After the Rain” sit astride the solemn and the uplifting. The subtle Stax-inflected soul of the title track casts a disintegrating relationship against the inspirational scenery of the desert Southwest. “Farewell Blues,” a song written after he found out about his late father’s cancer diagnosis, has a resolute drifter’s wandering heart to guide it.
But no matter where he goes, the current of the Crescent City still tugs at Luke’s music. The sweaty riffs of “Thought I Heard You” are as hot as the beer is cold and the syncopated horns on “Chicken Dinner” are a big, playful flirtation. The psychedelic swamp boogie of “Leghorn Women” brims with charm, both suave and sinister, while the Tom-Petty-on-the-levee vibe of “Born to Roam” makes it a classic-in-the-making road trip anthem.
Blue Mesa was recorded across the globe in the Tuscan fortress village of Lari, Italyand features long-time collaborator and Italian blues guitar dynamo Roberto Luti, Chris Davis of King James and the Special Men, and Mike Lynch (Bob Seger, Larry McCray) on organ, among others.
Luke Winslow-King has collaborated with New Orleans legends and wunderkinds alike, including Dr. John, John Boutté, Luti, Little Freddy King, Washboard Chaz, and Meschiya Lake. In addition to holding down residencies at numerous venues and releasing four studio records over the course of nine years, he has toured extensively in North America and Europe, appearing on notable stages such as Austin City Limits, New Orleans JazzFest, Azkena Rock Festival (Spain), Paradiso (Netherlands), Maverick Festival (UK), and countless more.
Originally from Cadillac, Michigan, Winslow-King began studying and performing music at a young age , he first came to Louisiana at age 19 with Earthwork Music founders Seth Bernard and Daniel Kahn presenting “From California to the New York Island: The songs and stories of Woody Guthrie.” In 2002, a year after receiving his diploma from Interlochen Arts Academy, he made a pilgrimage back to New Orleans and ending up staying there almost by chance; after only a few days in town, Winslow-King’s car – filled to the brim with a band’s worth of instruments – was stolen while parked overnight on Ursulines Street in the Tremé. During the weeks spent trying to recover his vehicle and instruments LWK fell in love with the city that he now calls home. He enrolled in the music theory and composition program at the University of New Orleans in the spring of 2003 and was awarded an ambassador scholarship to study Czech classical music at St. Charles University in Prague that summer.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Winslow-King lived in New York City and was employed as a music therapist by the Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics in the Bronx. He also held a music teacher’s position at the La Velle School for the Blind. While in New York, Luke studied composition privately and recorded with Grammy nominated avant-garde composer “Blue” Gene Tyranny, and attended Jack Hardy’s legendary songwriter’s circle.
In 2007 he headed back home to New Orleans after recording his first self-titled debut album and continued paying his dues, busking on Royal Street during the day and working in the clubs on Frenchman Street at night. In 2008 recorded ‘Old New Baby’ mostly live at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He learned gospel and jazz standards accompanying John Boutté, studied bottleneck guitar with blues maestro Roberto Luti (formerly of The Washboard Chaz Blues Trio), and immersed himself in the trad jazz songbook while playing with the Loose Marbles Jazz Band. During this time he was also a member Meschiya Lake's Little Big Horns and is featured on her album ‘Lucky Devil.’
This non-stop woodshedding helped Winslow-King hone his sound, earn respect as a leader among the young traditionalists in New Orleans, and become known as one of the hardest working, authentic, and original acts in Americana music. After performing years of weekly gigs on Frenchmen Street, he now consistently tours the United States, Europe, and Australia. With his 3rd album ‘The Coming Tide’ LWK and his band landed a support slot opening for Jack White on his Blunderbus tour and were signed to Bloodshot Records in 2013.
In 2014 LWK toured Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia with ‘Blues for the Balkans’ raising money for flood relief in the area. An unreleased documentary was made about the experience.
LWK landed in front of larger audiences over the last few years while sharing the stage with the likes of Roseanne Cash, Jack White, Taj Mahal, Buckwheat Zydeco, Robert Earl Keen, Pokey Lafarge, Chris Thile, and the Rebirth Brass Band.
Highlights & Achievements
-Recieved award for Best Blues Performer from Gambit Magazine’s Best of New Orleans in 2015
-Performed on CNN, CBS's NCIS New Orleans, and the Discovery Channel.
-Named "Writer of the Week" by American Songwriter Magazine in January of2014
-Composed and conducted original music for the Dithyrambalina New Orleans Music Box Project in 2013.
-Commissioned to compose and perform an entire concert of original music for full orchestra by the Cadillac Symphony in 2013
-Participated in recording sessions for John Boutté, Little Freddy King, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Playing for Change, George Porter, Jr., and Paul Sanchez, among others.
-Kyle Newacheck, one of the creators of Comedy Central's "Workaholics," directed LWK's latest music video for the single “Swing the Thing,” which premiered on EW.com in the fall of 2014.
-In 2013, Winslow-King was nominated as Best Male Performer by Offbeat Magazine, alongside Dr. John and Boutte 2013, and for Best Blues Artist in 2014
Luke Winslow-King's self titled album was released in 2007 after his stint working as a music therapist in Harlem and in The Bronx. The album reflects his classical and Michigan folk upbringing and also features lyrical collaborations with poet Ji Un Choi.
Old/New Baby, his 2009 release, was recorded at Preservation Hall in New Orleans and marks the beginning of his career as a New Orleans recording artist. The album highlights his jazz and blues influences and features an all-star cast of local sidemen, including Ben Polcer, Rick Trolsen, Michael Magro, Jason Jurzak, and Mike Voelker.
The Coming Tide was his first album with Bloodshot records and introduced his music to a national audience. Recalling the grimy streets of New Orleans of the French Quarter and beyond, it’s a charmingly disarming amalgam of early 20th century jazz, Delta blues, American folksong and Southern gospel, and was named as one of American Songwriter's Best Albums of 2013.
It features Cassidy Holden on bass and Esther Rose on washboard and vocals
Everlasting Arms (2014) is Winslow-King’s second release for Bloodshot Records and finds Winslow-King and company building upon previous creative efforts with a wider scope, exploring a sonically and stylistically panoramic songwriting vision. The album plays like a biography, with Winslow-King’s sharing snapshots of picaresque scenes from his life with the listener, an aural photo album that details the struggles and misunderstandings, the joys and the celebrations that we can all recognize in our own lives, experiences that cumulatively generating growth and which eventually give us all unique sense of self.