Ervin Charles Greyhound Blues (Dialtone)
Reviewed by Jay Hardwig, Fri., Sept. 29, 2000
Greyhound Blues (Dialtone)When the faithful went rooting for Texas blues heroes, it's a shame they didn't turn up Ervin Charles a bit sooner. A local legend who anchored the Beaumont blues scene for half a century, Charles was both inspiration and mentor to those who found wider fame, including Long John Hunter and Lonnie Brooks. Despite such credentials, Charles was scarcely known outside of his hometown until 1999's stellar Texas Shootout, in which he more than held his own with Hunter, Brooks, and fellow Texan Philip Walker. Greyhound Blues, recorded last year and released posthumously -- Charles died in April at the age of 68 -- is a study in grit and vulnerability, from the guitarist's sharp and spare lines to his gruntin', growlin' vocals. Charles' friend and fellow Gulf Coaster Richard Earl takes several nice turns on vocals, including the showstopping "Sweet Woman's Love," a plaintive ballad that's the album's deepest and most gratifying track. At their best, Charles and Earl evoke the classic R&B stylings of a Bobby Bland or Otis Rush, adding meaning with every lilt and tumble of their weary, knowing voices. To be sure, neither shows the breadth of classic Bland, Greyhound Blues starting to sound a bit familiar by album's end, but the very fact that Charles so often hits the same note is a small quibble this welcome, if belated, chapter in Texas blues history.