Thursday, July 29, 2010

True Confessions

I do not now get, and have never gotten, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

By which I mean, I don't get why I was ever supposed to be more impressed with him than, say, an average hot blues guitarist of the sort you can find at an average blues bar anywhere in the country on any given night 24/7.

Okay, I'm sort of kidding here, but I figured that since last week's cheap shot at Frank Zappa unexpectedly generated beaucoup de comments, I should perhaps try something similar.


Faze said...

The secret to Stevie Ray's rise: Mob backing. I'm still waiting for the better-than-average white blues guitarist who also has incredible vocal chops. That's the grail. SRV sings like he's got a capo clamped on his tongue.

steve simels said...

I assume you're kidding about SRV's connections -- wasn't he John Hammond's last discovery?

Sal Nunziato said...

I always SRV had a very distinct guitar sound. I don't think anyone sounded like him prior, though many have tried since.

The two songs that mad me a believer:

"Texas Flood" from the El Mocombo, 1983

"Life Without You" from Santa Fe (I think) 1989.

I think he really is worlds apart from what you find in an average blues bar.

Sal Nunziato said...

Uh...should read "I always thought SRV..." and "made me a believer."

Gummo said...

Seriously, I think some of it is generational. For those of us who grew up with the crop of 1960s white blues guitarists, SRV was unnecessary.

But for those a bit younger (like Mrs. G.) who were not familiar with Clapton, Beck, Green, etc., SRV was a revelation.

Michael said...

SRV played blues with a flair all his own, something a bit special.

Blues hounds and guitar dudes place him own a shelf higher than his over all talent warrants (not a great singer, writer, interpreter), because the boy had chops, style and the coolness of dying young.

I never bought his music but I stop and listen when it happens by.

TMink said...

He died.

That is a huge part in his popularity. Well, that and how he played!


Anonymous said...

but you get Little Village. flummoxed.

figured Stevie for a better version of Johnny Winter. aggressive blues is always a good night out - zz top, george thorogood, brownsville station - tho not as transcendant as power pop.

big bad wolf said...

i'm with sal. srv had his own sound and it was a good one. now, for all that he was a bit overhyped, even before the accident and way overhyped for a few years after it, but that wasn't his fault. god knows most of the 60s white blues guitarists were somewhat overhyped to, and some lived to do atrocious slow-downed versions of their great songs. overyandl

steve simels said...

I'm not denying Vaughan's talent, BTW.

I just don't get why he had a cult even when he was alive.

I mean, why not Johnny Winter? Or even better -- why not Rory Gallagher?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Simels, I believe I'll one up you on this matter. I've never "gotten" ANY of the guitar wizards including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton (OK, EC more than most), Alvin Lee and of course Stevie Ray Vaughn. I enjoy good guitar work but I don't recall ever being blown away by some supposedly amazing piece of guitar work. The two most boring shows I ever attended were Eric Clapton and Leo Kottke. Yes indeed they can both really play the guitar well but, to my ears at least, that got old pretty quickly. I'm so much more impressed by a small passage of guitar work in a song that just seems to sound perfect at that moment in that particular song. The only example that comes to mind is the descending notes (chords?) near the beginning of the Clash's "I'm Not Down". I don't believe there's anything particularly ground breaking with what is done there but it just sounds perfect, at least to me. I guess music and art have been and will always be joined at the hip in at least one respect - I may not know great art but I know what I like.

Noam Sane said...

Blues guitar is all about TONE and he had it in spades. And he wasn't all flash, he was just as likely to hammer away at one or two notes for eleventy-seven bars as he was to rip off one of those blindingly fast runs he was known for.

Winter, Gallagher, Guy - a bit too raw for mass appeal. SRV is the guy who condensed and consolidated that style. And he wrote good, tight little pop-blues tunes too, when he wanted to (In Step is the best example of this).

Took style tips from Leone-era Clint Eastwood. Points for that.

steve simels said...

Noam --

That's the first explanation that's made sense to me. I thank you.

Anonymous --

Leo Kottke? Really? I think his stuff is exquisite. And the least indulgent guitar player ever -- essentially a composer who also happened to be a virtuoso.

Oh well. That's what makes horseraces, as they say.

steves said...

I've never "gotten" ANY of the guitar wizards including Jimi Hendrix...


And Simels, SRV had chops and panache in spades.

Anonymous said...

SRV played with feeling something the other players lacked

Blue Ash Fan said...

While I get the whole "guitar god" thing, the whole blues guitar god has left me cold for a very, very long time. After a while, it all just sounds the same to me. Same old, same old.

If I'm going to listen to a guitar god, I'll take Richard Thompson any day. He consciously avoids that overworked blues tradition and creates things that are uniquely his own. Plus, he's a killer songwriter, too.

This isn't to slam the blues, either. Muddy? Wolf? Love 'em!

Blue Ash Fan said...

Oops. That should say "blues guitar god thing."

Brooklyn Girl said...

But for those a bit younger (like Mrs. G.) who were not familiar with Clapton, Beck, Green, etc., SRV was a revelation.

I don't think of Beck as a blues guitarist, actually ... even though he can play the blues as well as the best of them.

I appreciate SRV's talent. It would just never occur to me to sit down and listen to him.

Roy Buchanan, otoh ... :-)

steve simels said...

Or Danny Gatton.

Noam Sane said...

Yes, Danny friggin Gatton. Have mercy.

BG, you might enjoy this clip of Buchanan playing with Merle Haggard (and of course, Merle's guitarist Roy Nichols).

Just came across it this morning on my pal Jim Campilongo's Facebook feed. Jim another fantastic Telecaster player, out of NYC - any guitar fan could do worse than to pick up a couple of his CDs.