OK, I admit. I’m not the biggest blues fan. Not because the sound is offensive – it isn’t, in general, though there are only so many times a body can be force-fed another one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s hits or a poor live version by some wannabe thereof and not puke.
Personally, and not that you asked, but my affinity for blues edges more toward the contemplative contemporary stuff – Chris Thomas King, The Black Keys, Judas Priest (just kidding) – and selections from the Mesolithic Era, specifically from Alan Lomax’s field recordings for Smithsonian Folkways. A lot of what falls in between is so-so, especially bar bands and double-especially the most glorified bar band of all time, Los Lonely Boys. (I’ll take Blues Hammer over them any day.)
Anyhoo, the blues: Not much of it gets me going, but probably because I don’t know shit from shinola when it comes to the local stuff – and there’s a lot of it. Granted, most of it is the province of old white dudes, but it’s still pretty impressive. Case in point: the guys on the Texas Blues Project Vol. 1: Fort Worth Artists, an album that features a murderer’s row of talent, starting with singer-songwriter and six-string slinger Stephen Bruton, who’s played with Kris Kristofferson, fellow Fort Worthian-done-good Delbert McClinton, and Bonnie Raitt, among others.
Then there’s guitarist and singer Buddy Whittington, known primarily for his work with John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers, a band that influenced Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Jeff Beck, among others. Also included are multi-instrumentalist James Pennebaker (Delbert, Leroy Parnell, and Nashvegas darlings Big and Rich); Red Young (Delbert, Linda Rondstadt, Sonny and Cher, Joan Armatrading, Tanya Tucker, and the legendary band he’s currently touring with, Eric Burden and the Animals); and more, including Jim Ashworth and Bryan Freeze, bandmates in local outfit Dr. Wu and the braintrust behind Texas Blues Project.
The album was recorded over several months and was often stitched together. Pennebaker, for example, sent his contributions from his home studio in Nashville. Visit www.texasblues.org. … Noticeably absent from the proceedings (or maybe not, considering who and what you know) is Fort Worth singer-songwriter James “Gut-tar” Hinkle, whose most recent album, Blues Now, Jazz Later, is a candidate for best self-produced independent release of 2007 in the 24th annual International Blues Challenge and Blues Showcase in Memphis. Presented by The Blues Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, the IBC also puts on a battle of the bands, and Hinkle has been chosen to represent North Texas. The event runs from late January through early February. The last band standing wins prizes and other goodies and becomes the Blues Foundation’s poster child for 2008. Some previous winners who went on to national acclaim are Diunna Greenleaf, Susan Tedeschi, Watermelon Slim, Tommy Castro, and Albert Cummings. Visit www.blues.org or www.jameshinkle.com.
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