Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan – 25 Classic Performances

StevieRayVaughanDoubleTroublePublicityShotThe world lost Stevie Ray Vaughan 25 years ago today. We lost a man, a musician, a legend, and a shining light in world full of darkness. Stevie overcame his personal demons and set about helping others do the same, both directly and indirectly. He was open about his experience and inspired people to change through not just his music, but his words and his actions. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his horrific death, we shall celebrate his life. We put together a Spotify playlist of 25 Classic Performances. Granted, we were limited to the available music on Spotify which luckily includes most of his recorded output for CBS/Sony. Strangely enough, the SRV box set is missing and if possible I would have included some incredible live performances on there including “Rude Mood” and “Testify” from MTV Unplugged. Stevie Ray Vaughan played those two songs on 12-string acoustic guitar and when I saw it live on TV I was stunned and still am. Simply amazing. Anyway, here’s what we have lined up for you. Some it is off the beaten path but I hope it gives you a full picture of the man and his life in music. My notes are in italics.

1. Scuttle Buttin’ – Live At Montreux 1985
2. Say What! – Live At Montreux 1985
This is the wicked 1-2 punch Stevie used to open many shows. This was a great way to declare he was back to take no prisoners after a lukewarm reception at Montreux 3 years earlier.
3. Couldn’t Stand The Weather – Couldn’t Stand The Weather
All time favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan tune. I can see his wrist flying in my mind’s eye as I listen to that rhythm guitar part. Damn!
4. Little Wing/Third Stone From The Sun – Archives
SRV transforms this Hendrix beauty into an instrumental excursion beyond the Sun.
5. Texas Flood – Live At The El Mocambo
Incredible performance of the song that started it all for SRV & Double Trouble. Listen close and see if you can tell where he switched to playing behind his back.
6. Change It – Soul To Soul
The first few bars of this one shiver my spine every time!
7. Satisfy Susie – Lonnie Mack – Strike Like Lightning
Stevie as sideman and contributor on this tune that features a main riff that Stevie borrowed from time to time. Here he trades solos with Lonnie while simultaneously lifting Lonnie’s career out of obscurity. Stevie was kind to his predecessors.
8. Telephone Song – The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style
Funky track from the only album with big brother Jimmie Lee. This one will get you movin’! Stevie displays his incredible rhythm chops on this one too.
9. Blues At Sunrise – Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Session
Albert talks way too much on this whole album but in between is some of the most incredible string bending you’ll ever hear from either of these two giants of the blues.
10. Travis Walk – In Step
This killer instrumental is not as blustery as “Rude Mood” or “Testify” but it’s bouncy and happy and will make you smile until your face freezes that way. Be careful!
11. Collins Shuffle – Live At Montreux 1982
Another Albert influenced SRV quite a bit too. Albert Collins. This is a terrific tribute to the Master of the Telecaster.
12. The Sky Is Crying – Essential
When I first heard SRV’s studio version of this I wasn’t impressed and I didn’t like that there was no slide guitar. This live version still has no slide guitar but he pulls out all the stops. It completely changed my mind about his choice to cover this song.
13. Give Me Back My Wig – Archives
I just love that Stevie liked Hound Dog Taylor and chose to cover one of his songs. I love Hound Dog too. This one DOES have slide guitar from Stevie Ray Vaughan.
14. Look At Little Sister – Soul To Soul
A blistering Texas Shuffle that he played so well. I love the trilling on the low strings and Double Trouble’s confident Strut.
15. Boot Hill (1984 Version) – Couldn’t Stand The Weather (Deluxe Edition)
An earlier version of the song found on The Sky Is Crying posthumous album. Now you can play a game of “Spot The Differences”! Exciting isn’t it?
16. Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town) – Live At The Spectrum, Montreal, August 17, 1984, Late Show
I had this bootleg for years before they added it to Couldn’t Stand The Weather. This is a blistering version of this great tune from Texas Flood.
17. Pride And Joy – Texas Flood
It’s just a classic and couldn’t be excluded.
18. Mary Had A Little Lamb – Live At Montreux 1985
If possible I would have included a post-rehab version of this song but there wasn’t one. This is an excellent substitute. Messed up or not, SRV was firing on all cylinders during his return to Montreux.
19. The Things That I Used To Do – Live At Carnegie Hall
Stevie got to play Carnegie Hall and he brought along his friends and big brother. He shared his success with the people he loved. We should all try that.
20. Crossfire – In Step
A Double Trouble composition and it’s a corker! Follow that bass! Stevie lights this one up like a Christmas tree.
21. Tick Tock – The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style
I hardly ever listen to this song but it features a great vocal performance by Stevie Ray Vaughan that cannot be denied. It’s also a direct reminder of our limited time here and that we need to make the most of it.
22. Lookin’ Out The Window – Soul To Soul
A little under three minutes of pure fun from Stevie and the boys.
23. Tightrope – In Step
Another example of Stevie’s talent in the rhythm guitar department. He was more than just incendiary solos and Texas shuffles. He was a tremendously well-rounded musician and showed it often.
24. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Live At The Spectrum, Montreal, August 17, 1984 Late Show
No one did Hendrix like Stevie Ray Vaughan and no one ever has. Stevie Ray Vaughan seemed to inherently understand Jimi’s playing and could expand on it or deconstruct it at will.
25. Riviera Paradise – In Step
We close with this beautiful piece of music from a beautiful person. You are missed Stevie Ray Vaughan, you are missed.

Barry Levenson – The Visit – Featured CD Review

BarryLevensonTheVisitBarry Levenson

The Visit

Rip Cat Records

Released on July 17, 2015

Barry Levenson is a Los Angeles-based producer, arranger, studio musician, and live performer. After you hear him you get the impression he could play anything and he does. You could say his day job is making music as a hired hand for a multitude of projects from up and coming Popsters to movie soundtracks and TV bumpers. His hands may be required to do it all but his heart makes its home in the realm of Blues and Jazz. Originally from Pittsburgh, he’s been all over the geographical map as well. He studied music in Boston, toured the world with Canned Heat and currently works in Los Angeles. Barry is into old school tones and tunes and he concocts masterful musical excursions which perfectly suit his tasteful, sometimes delicate, and always melodic playing. On his new album, The Visit, from Rip Cat Records, Barry brings his vast library of licks, riffs, and tones over to your house for a late night listening party.

The album opens with the genre defining riff of “I Wonder Why.” Several of Barry’s influences have done this song from Earl Hooker to Freddie King but Levenson offers a masterful instrumental version much like Otis Rush did on Right Place, Wrong Time. In one complete, cogent track Barry sets forth his mission statement for The Visit. He’s bringing all his musical inspirations together for your listening pleasure. Barry’s music exists in the sweet spots of Blues and Jazz. The notes are blue but the feeling is positive and uplifting. It’s the musical equivalent of one door opening as another closes. “I Wonder Why” has all these elements, with Barry exquisitely combining styles of Otis, Freddie, T-Bone and others into a Barry Levenson brew that hits all the right notes.

On “Ice Cold Kiss” Barry takes a vocal turn adding smooth, jazzy vocals over a smoky layer of late night blues accented by cascading piano and horn lines courtesy of Mike Thompson and Phil Krawzak respectively. It’s a mid tempo tune that evokes images of a smoky, dimly lit late night jazz club, the air thick with cigarette smoke, stale beer, and pheromones. Many of songs we hear during The Visit exude late night melancholy with some exception like opener “I Wonder Why,” and “It’s Mighty Crazy” which is just plain fun. Being a creature of the studio and Los Angeles, Barry’s personal musical pursuits probably find their reality in late night jams. The late night jams are an improviser’s playground and Barry’s knowledge and encyclopedia of guitar licks make him the top choice in any pick-up game, but that circumstance surely informs the music he creates. This is big city late night music.

The title track, “The Visit,” expertly weaves together jazz and blues. The breakdown in the middle starts with a jazzy rhythmic chorded solo that builds into a West Side Chicago Blues head cutting contest big finish before slipping into a swinging coda. You have to go back and listen to this one a few times to hear everything you missed. “This Time I’m Gone For Good” and album closer “You’re Gonna Need Me” features Billy Price on vocals. Billy is a well-known and respected soul singer whose latest album, This Time for Real, was recorded with Chicago soul singer Otis Clay. Guitar aficionados may remember Billy from his stint with Roy Buchanan. Barry Levenson is a player on par with Roy Buchanan and it’s great to hear Billy working with a less histrionic, but equally evocative player. The two men form a sympathetic duo that makes each song a special moment during The Visit.

Even before you hear the music, you get a hint of what is to come. The cover of The Visit looks like you’ve opened the front door around 10 pm to find Barry and his trusty guitar. He’s brought his friends Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and T-Bone Walker with him. He even brought along his old pal from Pittsburgh Billy Price to sing a few. “Have you heard of Grant Green?” Barry asks, and then plays some licks to remind you. It’s like the old days when people would bring records to a party and would actually listen to them and discuss what they heard. One song would inspire the next in a Round Robin of pre-internet music sharing. To me that’s what The Visit is all about. Don’t wait for Barry to knock on your door, schedule a visit for yourself and some friends with this terrific musical love letter to a time before playlists, Pandora, and ear buds.

The Visit is available at iTunes, Amazon, Rip Cat Records, and other outlets.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases July 31, 2015

Holy Moley Biscuiteers! The new releases this past week are a guitar fan’s dream. Buddy Guy is possibly THE Blues guitar player of all time. From acoustic grooves to face melting electric pinwheels of blues jamming joy, Buddy can and has done it all. That’s probably why the usual Blues labels don’t have anything out this week. The album dropped just one day after Buddy’s July 30 birthday and even at 79 years young Buddy strikes fear in the hearts of pretenders to the throne. Born To Play Guitar is an obvious yet perfect title for a Buddy Guy album and he isn’t ready to stop yet. Like the title track says, “I got six strings loaded on my bad machine, show me the money and I’ll make this damn thing scream!” Yeah he will.

Grooveyard Records isn’t afraid of Buddy Guy. They have three new releases by powerhouse guitarists. Jay Jesse Johnson, Craig Erickson, and Bryce Janey all push the blues rock envelope with scorched earth, take no prisoners playing and writing. Warren Haynes is player known for his rough and tumble blues based playing too but this time around he has toned it down and recorded an album of acoustic based performances. His playing is reserved and subdued, offering gracefully delicate passages and and subtle slide licks which weave through the rich tapestry sewn by his conspirators from Railroad Earth. Other guests include Grace Potter and fellow Allmans Marc Quinones and Oteil Burbridge, plus Shawn Colvin and Mickey Raphael.

We put together a short Spotify playlist and featured a few tunes from last week’s new releases as well since not all of this week’s new albums are available on Spotify. The playlist is below the new releases list. Spotify is a great way to sample new music but if you like what you hear, please support the artists and buy the CDs or mp3s. The artists deserve to be paid for their work and streaming royalties are pretty much a joke.Also keep in mind that if you buy a CD from an artist at a show, they make almost twice as much from the sale than if you buy it through a retailer. Support live music and the artists and let’s keep this thing rollin’!

On a lighter note, we hope you find something interesting for your ears! Enjoy.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy Born To Play Guitar

Craig Erickson

Craig Erickson Sky Train Galaxy

Jay Jesse Johnson

Jay Jesse Johnson Set The Blues On Fire

Bryce Janey

Bryce Janey Delta Road

Warren Haynes Feat. Railroad Earth

Warren Haynes Feat. Railroad Earth Ashes & Dust