Blues Bytes


February 2019

Stevie Ray Vaughan
 Texas Flood
Epic Records


It’s still hard for me to describe the feeling that I got when I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan way back in the mid ’80s. I had started listening to Jimi Hendrix a few years earlier, along with Eric Clapton. I was vaguely familiar with the blues via what I had heard on TV: B.B. King on The Tonight Show and the various musical artists that appeared on Sanford and Son, one of my favorite shows of the ’70s. But my first real exposure to the blues was courtesy of SRV’s first couple of albums, at least that was the point at which I started paying attention to the blues.

When Vaughan and Double Trouble recorded what would become their debut, Texas Flood (Epic Records), there was little or no blues being released on the music scene --- at least on major labels like Epic. Texas Flood was the turning point for the blues in the 8’0s, as far as putting it back in the public eye again. I can remember seeing Vaughan posters at my local record store with the album cover as well as reading articles about Vaughan in various music magazines. The album spent over six months on the record charts, which just wasn’t happening for blues records for years prior to 1983.

I also remember a lot of critics weren’t overly enthusiastic about it at the time, which was one of the reasons that I don’t pay much attention to critics. Looking back at those reviews now, I read that Vaughan lacked originality and that he just sounded like the artists who influenced him, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix to name a couple. What the critics probably didn’t realize at the time was that most of the kids listening to records probably hadn’t heard very much music from those two guys and Vaughan was opening their ears to what was to them a new sound. At the same time, older music fans who loved those two artists back during their heyday enjoyed the chance to hear that kind of music again because there weren’t a lot of recordings by those artists, or many like them, lining the record store shelves at that time.

I was one of those kids described above. While I’d heard Hendrix, Albert King was brand new to me, and I loved Vaughan’s muscular, stinging lead guitar. Later, when I did hear Albert King, I had a good idea who provided inspiration to Stevie Ray Vaughan. But he didn’t just play Albert King, he took what King played and he gave it his own coat of paint, if you will --- a fresh take that took it to another level. For a kid bored with the same old, same old that I heard on the radio in the mid-’80s, this was mighty, mighty music that I knew was going to stay with me for a long time.

Jackson Browne had heard the band’s 1982 set at the Montreux Jazz Festival and offered the band three days of free use of his studio in Los Angeles where they recorded a demo that was heard by the legendary John H. Hammond who passed the demo to Epic Records. The album itself was recorded in two days, no overdubs, just like a regular set for the band (Vaughan – guitar, vocals, Tommy Shannon – bass, Chris Layton – drums).

Texas Flood kicks off with two SRV originals, “Love Struck Baby” and “Pride and Joy,” which happen to be two of Vaughan’s best and most memorable tunes. “Love Struck Baby” lasts just over two minutes, but I can remember rewinding my cassette to listen to it again ….. it blew me away that much. “Pride and Joy” was Vaughan’s first single, a classic shuffle written years earlier about his at-the-time lady friend. It’s still one of his best-loved songs. Larry Davis’ classic title track is next, showing what a master Vaughan was at slow-burning blues. Next up is a sizzling take of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Tell Me, and then a scorching instrumental version of the Isley Brother’s “Testify” (interestingly, Jimi Hendrix played on the Isley’s version in 1964, one of his first recording efforts).

“Rude Mood” is another instrumental, a lightning-fast shuffle, which is followed by a cover of Buddy Guy’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which shows the influence of Guy on Vaughan’s style, but the younger guitarist throws in a few surprises of his own. “Dirty Pool” is another splendid slow blues which Vaughan co-wrote with his former bandmate Doyle Bramhall, one of several collaborative efforts by the pair over the years, and the mid-tempo shuffle “I’m Cryin’” was a sequel of sorts to “Pride and Joy,” inspired by a later fight with the same lady friend. The album closes with another instrumental, “Lenny,” a wonderful, jazzy tribute to his wife, Lenora.

Texas Flood has been reissued a couple of times, first in 1999 with three live tracks attached and a early version of “Tin Pan Alley,” which was a prominent track on Vaughan’s second album, Couldn’t Stand The Weather. The second reissue was in 2013, featuring a bonus disc of a previously unreleased concert in Philadelphia from 1983. The original album release, however, should hold a place in any current blues fans’ collections as the one that started the resurgence of the blues as a vital musical genre.

--- Graham Clarke



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