Blues At Sunrise

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Epic / Legacy Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Any time you deal with posthumous collections and releases, you walk a fine line between respect for the artist's memory and pure commercialization. This is a lesson that people learned the hard way with Jimi Hendrix's music, releasing any type of dreck that he had recorded, even if the songs never progressed past the demo stages.

Stevie Ray Vaughan is starting to inch dangerously towards that spotlight now, as the sixth release since his death in a 1990 helicopter crash, Blues At Sunrise, takes center stage. A collection of Vaughan's slower blues work isn't a bad idea, but the two unreleased cuts and one featuring Vaughan and Albert King performing together do nothing to help Vaughan's musical legacy.

Now, I'm of the school that there should be a balance on an album of up-tempo and slower songs. While I can appreciate the significance of grouping together Vaughan's slow, soul-spilling numbers (kind of like the classic blues artists who came and went before him), after a while, you can't help but wish that the pace would be picked up even a little bit.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That being said, many of the previously-released tracks on Blues At Sunrise are given a chance to shine when they otherwise might not have. Songs like "Dirty Pool," "Ain't Gone 'N' Give Up On Love" and "The Things I Used To Do" all allow Vaughan the room to let his Stratocaster wail in a mixture of pleasure and pain. Numbers like these gave Vaughan the opportunity to stretch his legs musically and show what he could do on the guitar without necessarily relying on flashy chops. The one track that stood out for me on the disc was "Chitlins Con Carne," which absolutely reflects Vaughan's mastery of the genre and of the six-string.

Unfortunately, there are signs that the bottom of Vaughan's musical barrel might have been scraped at times. The live version of "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town)" does not add to the studio version at all, and seems to be just a showcase for Vaughan to perform with fellow blues legend Johnny "Clyde" Copeland. Likewise, the title track, performed live with King, is, in a word, boring. Even a song like "Texas Flood" is stretched to its limits; this particular version comes from the home video Live At The El Macambo. I guess you had to be there.

The alternate take on "The Sky Is Crying," admittedly not one of my favorite Vaughan songs, doesn't have the magic that you can hear in the version featured on the album of the same name. This is probably why this particular version never made it onto a CD until now.

I don't have anything against Vaughan's fans wanting to hear damn near every note that he ever played, and I can appreciate why discs like Blues At Sunrise come out. But there comes a time when one has to take a step back and ask themselves, "Why was this track left in the archives?" It might be time for those in charge of Vaughan's master tapes to take a close look and ask themselves if they want to make Vaughan's posthumous work the next Jimi Hendrix.

If you like slow blues that gives the emotional rawness time to come to the surface, Blues At Sunrise will undoubtedly please you. But if this is a sign of things to come, I seriously hope that this will be the last album from Vaughan we see for some time.

Rating: C

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.