Texas Guitar Great Chris Duarte Sees Life From Fresh Vantage Point With Explosive New Record

The Fire, the Passion, The Soul …

 

When Sun Records founder Sam Phillips first heard Howlin’ Wolf sing, he spoke the now famous words: “This is where the soul of man never dies.”

 

If Phillips had ever met Texas guitar great Chris Duarte he might have been moved to offer a similar insight into the eternity of the blues, Duarte’s triumph over personal adversity and the firebrand passion to which this blues-rock guitar master brings to his music.

 

In a celebrity-driven industry rife with Faustian deals served up to the public via false advertising, Duarte has demonstrated that his soul – and his love of the blues – is not for sale. When listening to the Chris Duarte Band’s new record, Vantage Point (Blues Bureau/Shrapnel), one senses Duarte’s rejuvenated spirit, renewed creative breadth, an ability to tap into the blues’ timelessness, and Duarte’s rekindling of the youth exuberance he possessed during the making of his breakthrough debut Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. The very title (Vantage Point) alludes to Duarte’s newfound self-awareness, his shedding of some bad personal habits, and his ability to view life from a different perspective. “I think I’m playing better than ever,” claims Duarte. “Working with producer Mike Varney has really opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities regarding melody and what to listen for to make a good record even better.”

 

Once pegged as a Stevie Ray Vaughan-abee, Duarte (a one-time longtime Austin resident now living in Atlanta) has emerged as an artist (worn Fender Stratocaster in hand) with his own, original kick-ass, stinging guitar-playing style. For years the name Stevie Ray hung like an albatross around Duarte’s guitar’s neck. Vantage Point is not only Duarte’s most fresh-sounding disk inn years but also unabashedly acknowledges and embraces his longstanding influences.

 

“I don’t deny my influences,” says Duarte. “If people compare me to Stevie Ray, well, to me that’s a compliment. My Stevie Ray tendencies are just one characteristic of my musical identity.”

Expecting a blues artist to exist in a vacuum and not be influenced by music around him is unrealistic. The blues (back before there even was a formalized genre) has always been about building, borrowing and creating one’s own artistic voice within a tradition. So it is not surprising that a dash of Stevie Ray mojo can still be found in Duarte’s inspired six-string acrobatics. But listen closely enough and you’ll also spot ‘Trane, Bird, Zeppelin, Miles, John McLaughlin, Albert King, Freddie King, Howlin’ Wolf’s Hubert Sumlin, and a host of other artists.

Duarte sprinkles these influences across a baker’s dozen of tracks appearing on Vantage Point: check the Robert Plant vocal wail/Jimmy Page-Les Paul vibe of “Babylon”; the Hendrix-meets-Govt. Mule-meets-Mahavishnu Orchestra freak out guitar jams of “She Don’t Live Here Anymore”; and the jazzy, goofy, witty and ridiculous mood of instrumental “Woodpecker”, which could very well have been a recently unearthed Dixie Dregs track from deep inside the Capricorn vaults.

Fittingly, the slow, major blues “Troubles on Me” not only references Stevie Ray Vaughan’s take on Albert King’s version of the Elmore James classic “The Sky Is Crying”, but also the blues standard “Goin’ Down Slow” (specifically the 1961 Howlin’ Wolf version, itself based on St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s 1941 song). Duarte adds his own poignant twist to the soulful lyrics, which speak to his once turbulent personal life.

“The song is saying, ‘Sorry, mom. I know this is not the life you would have wanted for me’,” says Duarte.

A self-described child of the Beatles generation, Duarte first picked up his brother’s guitar when he was just 15 years old and learned the Fab Four’s tunes via guitar-chord tablature texts. After quitting school at 16, Duarte moved from San Antonio, Texas, to Music City U.S.A. (a.k.a. Austin, Texas) with a great musical potential and an unchecked, naïve jazz “snobbishness.”

“I was turning my nose up at it the blues, but when I did some serious investigation, suddenly I’m asking myself, ‘Why don’t I sound like that guy on the record?,’” Duarte says.

Duarte worked his butt off through constant practice, soaking up as much knowledge as he could from veteran blues cats, and pounding the boards in venues throughout Austin (and greater Texas). He witnessed the rise of Austin as a music Mecca; caught a young Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Continental Club when the future blues-rock icon was still finding his own voice; founded his own trio; and began playing 25 shows a month when fans and critics alike stood up and took notice.

Suddenly the Midwest and upper South were Duarte’s breadbasket. He was on the road constantly and cut such critically acclaimed records as Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, Tailspin Headwhack and 2007’s Blue Velocity.

Duarte’s excitement is palpable when speaking about Vantage Point. “There are some moments on Vantage Point that hit me the same way as Texas Sugar,” says Duarte. “I was a young player then, didn’t have the vocabulary I do now, but there is a certain vibe about the tracks – then and now. I’m just really excited about and proud of this record.”

Chris Duarte Group “Vantage Point” 2008 tour dates:

 

10/31/08 Fri. Mojo Room, Danville, VA

11/01/08 Sat. Jewish Mother, Virginia Beach, VA

11/02/08 Sun. Sellersville Theatre, Sellersville, PA

11/03/08 Mon. Chan’s Woonsocket, RI

11/05/08 Wed. Over The Mountain, Rockton, PA

11/06/08 Thu. Gilly’s, Dayton, OH

11/14/08 Fri. Ace’s, Bradenton, FL

11/15/08 Sat. Mojo Kitchen, Jacksonville Beach, FL

11/16/08 Sun. Blues Birthday Bash Festival, Sebastian, FL

11/21/08 Tues. Red Light Café, Atlanta, GA

11/22/08 Sat. Bradfordville Blues Club, Tallahassee, FL

11/28/08 Fri. Texas Station Casino, Las Vegas, NV

 

www.chrisduartegroupfans.org

www.myspace.com/chrisduartegroup

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