Chris Duarte Group – “My Soul Alone” CD Review by Scott Thomas
You know what so cool about living in Austin Texas...? Drive'n 'round town listening to blues Brother Chris Duarte in your car stereo. I'm "chill'n and will'n" as I drive by the state's capital building on Congress Avenue. I just love Austin and the beautiful hill country this time a year. While the rest of the northern part of the U.S. is under a blanket of snow, we are enjoying the February sunshine at a low 70 degrees during the day. A couple more weeks and everything will be starting to bloom. Then here comes the beautiful Bluebonnets ...
As y'awl may not know, Austin is called the "Music Capital of The World"... Now, I don't know who pinned that name on us, but I would like to agree. I've lived here for nearly 30 years and I've got to say, Austin has it go'n on... Onward through the fog that is. lol !!! Our city's motto is, "KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD".
As I drive and cruise around the city running errands, I can't help but think of the first time I saw and heard Chris Duarte play live here in "A-Town”. It was at a free outdoor weekly concert series called "Blues on the Green" way back in the day. I think it was the early to mid 90's. I remember seeing and hearing him thinking this Kat is awesome. I had never heard of him before this point in time. And, his masterful playing and guitar tone is what really blew me away. I also remember thinking to myself and asking, this guy is good, but there are a million blues players out there and does Chris Duarte have the staying power?
Well, after the last several years, my question has been answered. I remember buying his first album "Texas Sugar Strat Magik". Our rock radio station KLBJ played his tune "My Way Down" in their daily rotation for awhile and during some of their Rock and Blues programming. And what a great debut album it is too. The impressive debut album, showcases his fiery, Stevie Ray Vaughan-derived blues-rock. He's first-rate, spitting out solos with a blistering intensity or laying back with gentle, lyrical phrases. And that's what makes Texas Sugar Strat Magik a successful record -- it's simply a great guitar album, full of exceptional playing.
Then for awhile, you didn't hear much about the young blues cat and I thought to myself another great musician lost to the ages... And then in 1997 Chris resurfaces with "Tailspin Head Whack", and when I heard he was touring again, it put a nice warm smile across my face. And then, I unexpectedly went to a show where he opened up for Joe Satriani and I was just floored experiencing his music in that type of bigger venue and rock setting. He and his band just blew me away that night.
Now fast forward to today, and all I can say is, Chris Duarte has surpassed all my expectations many times over after the last several years. Mostly now because he has been putting a new album out every couple of years. Each new project keeps getting better and better than the last. It is as if Chris has fully blossomed in his songwriting and is now in full stride. And the production on each song is so studied and astute. Chris uses his wide and vast knowledge of rock and blues music to help him convey his musical intentions. He also understands the tonal qualities of the instruments vs. the overall sound, fidelity, essence, and time period he is trying to capture with each smartly crafted tune. A perfect example of this is with his tune called "Take Me Now"... The overall production, songwriting, lyrics, vocals, guitar playing are just top-notch. I swear the music just takes you back in time. And on the other hand, the vibe is so uplifting and new at the same time.
The next song up to the plate for a swing is "A Dollar Down and Feeling Low" ... Watch out for the 'flim-flam' he laments ... This blues music is sooooo low that you'll be playing hand-ball against a curb. The tune has that Stevie Ray Vaughan "Tin Pan Ally" progression to it. Man o' man can Duarte play those clean and toneful blues licks. He just chokes the hell out of that there geetar-neck. All the while, he makes that git-box cry with such sorrowful and tearful notes. Do you need any cheese with that whine ? Damn… Play that Guitar Son !!! By the way, the song clocks in at 8:20. Now that's what you call a long lonely dark walk on the wild side.
Ok now, what do we have here? "I Bucked It Up" is the 5th song on the CD. This is a raucous good time of a tune... This is a tight-kick'n track which throws out there the roll of the dice with some good ol' hoe-down barrel-house blues. The song is a tongue ‘n cheek story about this dude who always seem to end up fudge'n things up. Hilarious !!!
The tune "Outta My Way" and "Leave My Soul Alone" both have those Hendrixy groovy vibes with big commercial overtones. "Outta My Way" has the Hendrix Experience 'hit-maker' sound to it with the Mitch Mitchell-type flamboyant percussion's which help bring the late 60's rock music into a more vibrant and dynamic light. The song "Leave Me Alone" touches on the Band of Gypsy's sound of the "Machine Gun" pedal-riff. Like I said, Chris Duarte is a master at creating these sonic worlds of yesteryear with such ferocity and tenacious energy.
"Sweet Little Girl" is a boot-skoot'n boogie-woogie looking for a wooden dance floor and allot of sawdust. Around and 'round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows... Oh yes we do. We stop at our next tune "Lazy Afternoon" with its Harry Connick Jr. lounge lizard vibe. This is smooth like a fine Brandy. The tune is very reflective in nature. Is there anything master Duarte can't play? Pure class with this one.
"Can't Shut Me Out"... is another fine rocker. For some reason, in my mind's eye, I can see this as being background music for a new James Bond movie. The music sounds refreshing but has that late 1960's psychedelia feel to it. The tune is fast driving like a 60s red and white Corvette convertible. This is four on floor!!! Chris's vocals are vibrant on this sensational track.
Now we are listening to "Blue Jean Outlaw"... the folklore songwriting is thoughtful, and spiritual. A tour de force of guitar magic and lyrical power. And lastly, we have the departing progressive rock tune "Carelessness" ... I'm like what da ??? This closing instrumental reminded me took me by surprise. I'm like "wow"... This is so different with the stringed instruments and violins... I thought I was listening to some new "Rush" or "Jethro Tull"... Chris Duarte never ceases to amaze me.
Parting Shot Across the Bow - If you have a wide palette for rock, blues, psychedelic, and progressive music, then it's all right here in Chris Duarte's new CD "My Home Alone". Motivating and I highly recommend!!!