Album review: Various Artists, A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan (1996)



By Steve Newton

The folks behind this latest tribute to blues-rock guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan could hardly lose when they got Vaughan’s older brother (and biggest influence) Jimmie to organize and host a one-off concert featuring Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Robert Cray.

Every assembled guitarist—most of whom shared the stage with Vaughan at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin, the night he died in a 1990 helicopter crash—performs with real passion and emotion, the way Stevie himself always did. And they all get impressive backing from Vaughan’s old band, Double Trouble, plus, on the CD’s three jamming tunes, New Orleans keyboardists Dr. John and Art Neville.

Jimmie Vaughan forgoes his typically economical approach for a scorching version of “Texas Flood”, the Larry Davis song which helped launch SRV’s career, and Slowhand pulls out the bluesy stops on Stevie’s “Ain’t Gone ’n Give Up on Your Love”. But the most intense moments come during Guy’s stark and gutsy rendition of “Long Way from Home”.

While this “official” tribute to Stevie Ray is certainly fitting and overdue, it would have been better if they’d expanded the project to two discs—Lord knows Vaughan left enough superior material for such a package—and invited some lesser-known friends and devotees to get their licks in as well (Vancouver’s Colin James and Nanaimo’s David Gogo come to mind as two worthy choices).

Fans of Vaughan’s harder-rocking material should also consider seeking out 1993’s Hats Off to Stevie Ray tribute, which includes inspired performances by Rick Derringer (“Pride and Joy”), Pat Travers (“Cold Shot”), Leslie West (“Look at Little Sister”), Frank Marino (“The Things [That] I Used to Do”), Jon Butcher (“Crossfire”), and Steve Hunter (“Lenny”).

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