You heard me. The 12-bar blues as we know it is far beyond stereotype. It calls to mind a thousand made-up songs that all start with “Well I woke up this mornin’” and, guess what? Your fake mental blues songs sound like real blues songs you’ve never heard. Now I’m not trying to ruffle up those who would defend Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters. When they were at it, the stuff was real and dangerous, and warranted the tizzy the populace went into over it. The blues was bad mood music, revenge music, and sex music. But later on it was just a bunch of simpleton complaints laid over the worn out rhythm we all know too well.
Guitarists like B.B. King and Eric Clapton must have known too, especially Clapton as he had to (in his day) bring modern power to Johnson’s “Crossroads,” and he did. Without that blazing lead, you only have someone trying to approximate Johnson which could only come across as weak with the passage of time and the desensitization of popular music and bulked-up tolerances. Johnson was shocking then and Claptoin had to make it shocking now. He did.
And so it is relatively easy to make the equation that in order for a modern bluesman to have any usefulness, he would have to “bring it” several times over or else be a total joke. Stevie Ray Vaughn was no joke. He could be lighthearted, as heard on “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on this, his debut recording with band Double Trouble titled Texas Flood. He could rock it like a loverman on “Pride and Joy” and he could be menacing too. And if you’re going to cover Jimi Hendrix, you better know your way around your fretboard or don’t waste our time.
A lot of Vaughn’s legend has been built after his tragically early death in a helicopter crash, as most legends seem to be. In it are other familiar elements of wrestling with demons, both chemical and emotional, and overcoming them to a great extent. That victory lap is heard on the albums In Step and his sole recording with brother and Fabulous Thunderbirds guitarist Jimmy Vaughn. Texas Flood is the initial spark of bright promise, the first act if you will, where a segment of an audience caught the wind and thought, my God, this guy is really on to something. Boy was he ever.
Epic Records’ Legacy Edition of Texas Flood comes a year or so after the Mobile Fidelity SACD edition and I have to assume it shares that disc’s remaster. The overall sound is crisp and warm, respectfully adherent to Vaughn’s guitar tone. A crappy remix with the highs all blunted thanks to overzealous compression would have been the ultimate insult, so that is blessedly negated here. But if you bought the MoFi disc thinking that was the only version you’d ever need again, is yet another dip in the Texas Flood worth the cost? For that you would need to decide just how much of a fan you are. If you’re a diehard, then you’ll be pleased to know this version has the addendum of “Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town).” It also has a second disc with a live recording dating back to 1983. On it, Vaughn pays tribute to Hendrix on multiple occasions with “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” and “Little Wing/Third Stone From The Sun.” Various favorites from the Texas Flood album also get a proper workout.
If you aren’t more than a casual fan then the additions may not mean all that much to your decision-making. And to those who cannot see past the age-old blues structures to what Vaughn’s laying down here, then none of this is going to float your boat. But as someone with a deep respect for Vaughn and virtuoso guitar playing in general, I cannot see a fan out there who wouldn’t be thrilled to hear just one more from Stevie Ray, even if it is offered to bulk up an older record in a new release.
You can find Texas Flood Legacy Edition at Amazon.com.