Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble – Texas Flood – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – Stereo-only SACD – UDSACD 2074, 38:54 *****:
(Stevie Ray Vaughn – guitar, vocals; Tommy Shannon – bass; Chris “Whipper” Layton – drums)
It is a rare occurrence when a single musician impacts musical culture. However, when Stevie Ray Vaughn burst onto the scene in the 1980s, it was electrifying. Comparisons to Jimi Hendrix abounded, due to the flashy play of this Texas blues man. His band, Double Trouble, was a classic power trio (guitar, bass and drum), like Hendrix, Cream and Mountain. As those bands galvanized blues into rock structures, Double Trouble elevated blues to mainstream popularity.
Fate played a hand in developing Stevie Ray Vaughn into a blues legend. Intrigued by the guitar playing of his older brother, he became submerged in the culture of blues music. There were a variety of musical influences including Buddy Guy, Albert King, Otis Rush, T Bone Walker, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. Growing up in Dallas, Vaughn dropped out of school and relocated to Austin. Despite his inability to read music (he even failed music theory in high school), he played with Texas stalwarts, Marc Benno and Paul Ray. Eventually, he formed Double Trouble (named after an Otis Rush number), and became local heroes in Austin. Unsigned, the band played the Montreux Jazz Festival (a coup for an unsigned band), and got to record with David Bowie. Iconic record executive John Hammond (Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin) got them a deal at Epic Records, and was the executive producer for their seminal debut album.
Texas Flood opens like crackling thunder with “Lovestruck Baby”, an original composition. Bristling guitar chords and growling vocals fuel this up tempo rocker with kinetic energy. In two and a half minutes, it becomes apparent that this is a transcendental presence. “Pride And Joy”, the album’s renowned single, showcases a mesmerizing hard-edged solo that became a signature for modern blues guitar. The shift from raucous chords to blistering notation is breathtaking. His guitar licks get amped up on “Rude Mood”, as the high speed riffs intensify the trio’s dynamics.
Vaughn proves himself to be a dedicated blues purveyor with some riveting covers. “Testify”, an Isley Brothers number, gets a blues rock arrangement (instrumental) that delivers groundbreaking hooks and solos that manage to reinvent the very nature of the song. The band does justice to Howlin’ Wolf’s classic, “Tell Me” as Vaughn demonstrates his menacingly urgent vocals with nasty countenance. The guitar runs are gaudy, but expressive. What elevates Double Trouble is the non-derivative interpretation of classics. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” captures the funky groove of Buddy Guy, but with the freshness of modern electric guitar. A glimpse into the future is explored on the atmospheric jazzy opus, “Lenny”. Vaughn’s intricate phrasing and fluidity are immaculate.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has transformed the original master recordings to an elevated digital standard with the Gain 2 (Greater Ambient Information Network) technology. The adaption to SACD succeeds in recreating the instrumental precision with spontaneity, texture and warm tonality. Texas Flood cracked the Billboard Top 100, and was nominated for a Grammy in 1983. Nearly thirty years later, its brilliance has not diminished.
TrackList: Love Struck Baby; Pride And Joy; Texas Flood; Tell Me; Testify; Rude Mood; Mary Had A Little Lamb; Dirty Pool; I’m Cryin’; Lenny
— Robbie Gerson