ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 18, 1999
By Steve Newton
Vince Converse is one of those up-and-coming guitar slingers you read about in guitar magazines, a simmering talent just waiting to explode onto the music scene. He’s also the kind of player Fender likes to have as an endorsee. I guess that means that the fabled instrument maker supplies him with all the Strats he can use, right?
“Nah, not really,” notes Converse from a Louisiana studio where he’s breaking in a new bassist. “It doesn’t work that way, man. No, they send me free strings; I get discounts on stuff. And I get a few plugs in Fender Frontline magazine, stuff like that.”
On his solo debut, One Step Ahead, the former Sunset Heights guitarist is shown posing with a red Fender Stratocaster on the CD cover, then tightly embracing a white one on the back. “I’ve just been playin’ ’em since I was a little kid,” says the longhaired Houston native, whose band opens for boogie-blues veterans Savoy Brown at the Yale next Thursday (November 25). “I mean, they’re a real pain in the ass to play sometimes, but I know how to use ’em and how to get sounds out of ’em. And they’re comfortable, you know.”
Although Converse is a die-hard Strat man, it’s not as if he’s never owned other guitars. Two years ago he had a Gibson Les Paul, a Flying V, and an ES-335 in his collection; then somebody broke into his van and stole them—along with his saxophone, a couple of amps, and some pedals. “I was trying to get laid after a gig,” recalls Converse, “and it was parked in the wrong neighbourhood, I guess.”
Converse dedicated One Step Ahead to the memory of blues great Lowell Fulson, who died last year and whose song “Sleeper” he covered on the release. “He’s the guy who wrote ‘Reconsider Baby’,” points out the 26-year-old picker by way of explanation. “He’s the man.”
Converse also did a version of B.B. King’s “Recession Blues”, which he first heard as a live recording on an oldies-but-goodies tape. “I wanted to put a blues tune on there, and I didn’t want to do, like, ‘Stormy Monday’ or anything, so I picked that one.”
Converse recorded One Step Ahead in just two weeks last January, with some funky contributions from New York’s Uptown Horns. He also had famed producer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Kiss) at the helm. “His recording techniques are probably my favourites,” says Converse. “I wished I coulda had him for a coupla months—it’s just that he’s expensive.”
Although he’s got a hotshot-produced record under his belt and has won much acclaim for his talents—Guitar World described him as “ferocious” and Savoy Brown guitarist Kim Simmonds says, “When he plays live, he’s always on 10”—Converse doesn’t expect to be the next young Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Jonny Lang guitar hero.
“To tell you the truth, man,” he drawls, “I doubt I will. I mean, I’ve been doin’ this since they were in junior high school, or elementary even. So I’ve got a few years on them. But I’m not lookin’ to be a rock star. I’m just a guitar player who likes to hang out in bars and play blues for women, you know.”