It's getting harder and harder to discover people for yourself these days. In the early days of rock and R&B there were lots of small, regionally distributed labels who put out sides by artists who might be tremendously popular in four or five states and unheard of anywhere else. And every once in a while somebody traveling through town would tell you about this amazing cat blowing in a club in Omaha or somewhere.
But nowadays record companies are searching every crook and nanny for instant sensations, and "discoveries" are made on a national... Read More
level, simultaneously, usually with an overkill of hype.
Roy Buchanan is one of those well respected people on the word of mouth trail, and this, his first album, just quietly arrives with nothing to live down. Buchanan is a guitarist who's been playing since he was a kid, digging jazz, blues, country and gospel. He toured with Dale Hawkins (remember "Suzie Q"?) for three years, and in 1959 settled in the Washington, D.C. area, where he still works at the Crossroads Bar. He's done some session work for Lieber and Stoller and Freddy Cannon, but he mainly works clubs. (And Rolling Stones' tours to the contrary, it's the drinking bars where you pay your dues and get your music togetherit can make or break you.)
A while back PBS did a 90-minute special on Buchanan, a mixture of live concert and films of Buchanan jamming with people like Johnny and Shuggie Otis, Merle Haggard and a jazz guitarist whose name I can't remember. The programs showed Buchanan to be a guitarist with an unusual amount of technical skill, plus a divergent enough soul to be more than at home in any of several styles. I was looking forward to an album.
Several months later, here it is and at least half of it was every bit as good as I expected. Buchanan is backed by the Snakestretchers, his regular group (organ, drums, guitar and bass)and though they're not up to Buchanan's level, they certainly don't handicap him as much as some reports have had it. They're primarily a backup group, and that's about all they do.
Side one is the best. Chuck Tilley does vocals on "I am a Lonesome Fugitive" (the Liz and Casey Anderson tune), and on "Haunted House," the old rocker. On the first, Buchanan just sort of lays back, on the latter he takes off on a break with a solo that just strides out. Buchanan is one of the few guitarists to come along with his own soundand this break typifies it. Side one also has three instrumentals. The first, "Sweet Dreams" is a lyrical and flowing country balladRoy's lines alternately flow, then pop in quick little flurries. There are two originals here; "Cajun" is what the title says with some nice fiddle-like flows and "John's Blues" is a showcase for Roy's mellow blues style. It opens in an easy mood, then moves into some "chicken picking" with notes sounding like popcorn popping. This cat's got amazing chops!
"Pete's Blues," which opens side two