Even though Im a blues fan, Ill admit Im hesitant to go see local blues acts. A lot of great blues players have come out of Texas: Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Larry Davis, Albert Collins, Lightnin Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker, and Johnny Winter, to name a few. And there are still some great players out there, but after Stevie Ray Vaughan, it seemed like every time I went to a blues club, all we heard was some SRV wannabe doing a 45-minute, soulless solo often with a funny hat.
But Chris Silverfox Watson isnt one of those. Though Ive seen him with other bands, I had heard he had put together a new band of his own, consisting of Chris Watson (guitar, vocals), Chris Hill (drums), Brian Miller (bass), Preston Lewis (sax) and Scott Morris (keyboard). And since they were playing at the Wild Rooster on Saturday, I tucked away my prejudices against Texas bar blues and headed out.
He won me over from the start. You can hear all kinds of influences in this mess, with some Stevie Wonder and even Little Walter in the vocals. Geographically, Texas blues combined with Motown and Chicago. I even heard a hint of Tom Scott in there, for a touch of jazziness.
It all boils down the basics, said Chris, the soulfulness of the blues. Emoting through music. Its an amalgamation of all those things.
Much of the night was original music, with a few notable exceptions such as Living for the City by Stevie Wonder, Trouble of the World by Mahalia Jackson, and Eyesight to the Blind by Sonny Boy Williamson II.
But the originals were where things really took off. I played in blues bands for years, and there are so many songs that are so easy to cover, because you can just dig up a bunch of lyrics nobody has heard for 50 years and do your own take. So easy, that its rare to see someone doing so much that is new and original.
Chris has assembled a world-class rhythm section to back him up. Hills drum work was flawless and tasteful even during a solo. Miller is an outstanding bassman, and the sax trading off with the guitar for leads gave us more of that Motown vibe.
I found Scott Morris to be particularly interesting, as he played keys like a blues keyboard player rather than someone who just picked up a digital piano because there were already too many guitars in the band. He knows how to play, and that is a rarity these days.
Chris Watson has toured all over in the past few years, including a stint in Europe where he is still getting airplay. Get out and see him locally while you still can.