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Rise Of A Texas Bluesman – Stevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1983 (2014)

Rise Of A Texas Bluesman – Stevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1983 (2014)

Studio: Sexy Intellectual Pictures SIDVD579 (Distr. by Chrome Dreams)
Director: Tom O’Dell
Chapters: Intro; Straight Outta Texas; The Blues Brothers; Influences From Two Different Worlds; From Liberation to A New Hi; Blackbird; Austin Bound; An L.A. Excursion; Into The Blues; Breaking Out; And Then There Were Three; A Festival In Europe; Texas Blues Goes Global.
Video: 16:9 Color, & Black & White
Audio: English PCM stereo
Length: 131 minutes
Ratings:  Audio: ****   Video: ***1/2      Overall: ****

The connection between blues music and rock and roll is pervasive. From the earliest rockabilly to the British invasion, blues music had been distilled into a popular musical context. There were several bands that managed to sustain the essence of blues even as they stretched the genre’s boundaries. Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Z.Z. Top and Johnny Winter were among these preservationist rock icons. However, there was one musician that reinvented the blues and presented it as his own…Stevie Ray Vaughan. Despite a lengthy career on the Texas blues scene, he struggled to hit the big time in an era where blues music was obscured by disco, heavy metal and synth-pop. Eventually his colossal talent as a guitarist would overcome these obstacles and make him a household name.

Rise Of A Texas BluesmanStevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1983 is an absorbing video documentary about Vaughan’s ascension to stardom. Consisting of vintage footage and photos, the viewer gets a detailed, linear narrative of the different stages of his development as an instrumentalist and singer. He started out on the Texas blues scene, overshadowed by his older brother Jimmy (Fabulous Thunderbirds). Even as a fourteen-year-old, Stevie Ray Vaughan had the work ethic and artistic drive to seek a musician’s life, The film uses terrific black and white footage of Texas/Delta early blues heroes Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightning Hopkins and T-Bone Walker to examine the influence of early blues and its subsequent transition to electrified structures. His Texas predecessor, Johnny Winter, paved the way for white rockers to succeed. There is also live footage of seminal groups like Jimi Hendrix (“Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile”), Cream (“Crossroads”) and Allman Brothers (a terrific excerpt of “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed”). Vaughan’s early association with Texas rocker, Marc Benno (Asylum Choir) is recounted with Benno (he states that SRV “burned your sideburns off). Vaughan never lost his strong connection to blues.

Despite the critical appeal and support from rock icons like David Bowie and Mick Jagger, Stevie Ray Vaughan could not get a record deal. He had progressed as a guitarist, singer, songwriter and band leader, forming Double Trouble (a group that eventually became a power trio). An appearance at Montreux in 1972, coupled with a impromptu meeting with Jackson Browne gave the Texas bluesman studio time and the tracks for Texas Flood were recorded. That would result in a deal with Epic Records. Now, there was a bona fide team to promote this artist.  Stevie Ray Vaughan modernized blues music with explosive sonic technique, not heard since Hendrix. He became a rock star without abandoning his roots. The film has great footage of Double Trouble (“Pride And Joy”, Lovestruck Baby”, “Lenny”) and two duets with Albert King.

The film is insightful with several in-depth interviews. Unfortunately without the consent of the Vaughan’s estate, no interviews with the main character are available. The sound quality is very good. The 2.0 stereo mix is vibrant and the video footage is reasonably clear. There is little mention of his personal life (including substance abuse), and the story ends prior to his untimely death.

—Robbie Gerson

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