Chris Duarte Group

Blues Bureau International, 2013

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Let’s get right to it, shall we? Chris Duarte is a hell of a guitar player.

Emerging in the ’90s as an avowed fan of fellow Texas “hard blues” aficionado Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duarte picked up where SRV left off, attacking the blues with similarly fervent commitment and Hendrix-influenced passion. It’s all there—the muscular, aggressive rhythm/lead guitar playing, the gritty barroom vocals, the rock-solid rhythm section creating the foundation for his flights of electric fancy.

With ten generally well-received studio albums and hundreds of thousands of touring miles under his belt, Duarte finally released his first live disc in 2013, capturing a set from his 2012 tour of Japan with a trio of Duarte, bass player Yoshi Ogasahara and drummer Jack Jones. The set list is a a heady mix of Duarte’s own tunes and covers of the likes of Leon Russell, Bob Dylan, the Neville Brothers and John Coltrane (though, interestingly, no Vaughan or Hendrix).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opening with a cover of the classic Freddie King blues instrumental “Hideaway,” Duarte and crew move quickly into a blistering cover of Russell’s “Big Legged Woman” that sets a heavy pace. Other disc one highlights include: the pleasantly thumping original “Make Me Feel So Right,” the especially intense solos on “Bottle Blues” and “Let’s Have A Party,” the spacey intro to “One More Cup Of Coffee,” and the heavy, super-dynamic instrumental first-set-closer “101.”

Disc two is lit up by the playful, aggressive riffing of “The Best That I Can Do,” the elegant solo opening to “People Say,” the deep blues funk of “Cleopatra,” and the blazing solo at the heart of “Like Eric.” The jams are more extended in this set and some overstay their welcome; for example, “People Say” starts well but devolves. Closing out the night, Duarte’s take on Coltrane’s “Alabama” runs right off the rails into echo-drenched pure noise.  

Duarte offers most everything you want from a hard-blue guitar-slinger type: the unhurried sledgehammer backbeat, the wild Hendrix-gets-the-blues soloing, the intense interplay within the band and the furious intention up front. If there’s a soft spot here, it’s the vocals; Duarte’s lack the self-assured swagger of Vaughan’s and are a little rawer. That said, Duarte is a righteous guitar player whose solos overflow with soul and passion, and whose work is helping to keep the hard blues tradition alive and vibrant in the new century. Stevie Ray would be proud.

Rating: B

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