Soul of a Man (Texas '51)
That's the Truth (Flat Canyon)
THE SMOKIN' JOE KUBEK BAND
Cryin' for the Moon (Bullseye)
Remember those maps of the U.S. you used to study in elementary school social studies? The ones that had pictures of little mining carts in the Rockies, pieces of cheese in Wisconsin, bales of wheat in Kansas, oil rigs along the Gulf, and so on? Well, if they had one of those for music, Texas would be dotted with little guitars. For whatever reason, Texas produces blues guitarists like the Napa Valley produces wine or Maine produces lobster. Both a natural resource and a commodity, this guitar-driven strain of Texas blues has become as instantly recognizable as its Chicago, Delta, or New Orleans counterparts. When it's done well, it brings out everything the blues stands for - late nights in a beer joint, sucking down brew after brew while the girl you brought dances with everybody in the place but you. If feelings were notes, they'd come out in the stinging tone of a Texas Strat. But the rigid structure of the blues can also foster laziness in its performers and boredom in its audience. Dallas' Joe Kubek, Tyler's Bugs Henderson, and Austin's Van Wilks all foster both. That these cats can play the guitar is not at all in dispute; it's just that they let themselves slip into rote playing much too easily. Those little guitars on the map of Texas denote much more than knowing the fretboard backwards and forwards. They also mean the best blues is the kind with real soul behind it, something you can't get anywhere else but Texas. All three records have flashes of that Texas shine, but flashes are all they are. - Chris Gray
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