Al Lerman has been cutting his teeth with the best in the blues world since he was a young man at a coffee shop in Toronto, he knew at age 16 what he was going to do with his life.
He was attracted to the coffee house scene as a youth because the establishments didn’t serve alcohol, so he was able to attend any and every blues show he could, it was how he came to sit in with blues legend Muddy Waters.
“I just fell in love with the music and then when I got old enough to sneak into bars I was seeing Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. I was so in awe of those guys and they seemed so approachable, I made myself known to them and when I was 18 I got to sit in with Muddy Waters,” Lerman said.
It was a day that he will remember forever, especially when Lerman went to get off the stage and Waters asked him to stay.
“He put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘no, you play nice, you stay up here and play some more,’” Lerman said. “I still think of that, it kind of gave me instant credibility and instant faith to keep going. If those guys like your playing, that’s all I really cared about, those guys were my idols, if they liked it I didn’t care what anybody else said.”
The inspiration from that day is still with him, though he went into the jam session a little overeager, he said.
“Playing with Muddy, I was so nervous to play with him and being a young kid, they played slow blues. In the first four bars I played every lick I knew and I realized, wow, I’m going to have to adjust here and lay way back. So it was really an epiphany playing with him, and I learned a lot that day,” Lerman said.
Years later Lerman ended up doing three albums with Waters’ drummer Willy “Big Eyes” Smith.
“It sort of came full circle,” Lerman said.
Lerman is coming to the Dream Café with Tim Williams, who won best guitar player at the Memphis Blues Challenge in 2014. The two toured together before and at the time made sure they would do another go-around.
“This is actually our second western tour together and it’s great. We just trade off songs together and we’ve had some great crowds so far,” Lerman said.
Lerman has a new album out, Slow Burn, his third solo effort. He is constantly working on something new whether it’s on his own or with Fathead.
“It seems every two years or so I put out an album either with Fathead or on my own and it came time to do one and it just seemed a better time to do one on my own,” Lerman said. “Fathead just had an album out last year and it was my turn.”
Every time he’s finished writing, Lerman is unsure if he can do it again.
“If I don’t write a song for awhile I think, well, that’s it the well has finally run dry,” Lerman said. “But mercifully I always seem to get inspired.”
This time that inspiration, and the album title, came from a painting by Fathead bassist Bob “Omar” Tunnoch.
“I thought it would make a great album cover. When I saw it I was trying to think what does it depict and the name slow burn came to me and I wrote an instrumental to go with it,” Lerman said.
A few members of Fathead appear on the album as well as Alec Fraser, who has played in Jeff Healey’s band, plays on this album and also produced it.
Al Lerman and Tim Williams come to the Dream Café May 28.