The Sky Is Crying

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Sony/BMG, 1991

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


There are a few universal truths among Daily Vault members. We think the Eagles suck, although we have softened a bit on that stance as of late. We are still mad at Prince, for good reason, even though we now allow a review or two of his to appear in a gesture of goodwill. And we all think Stevie Ray Vaughan is damn spectacular; if you need proof, read the review on our SRV page from our four reviewers who have tackled the man’s brief but influential body of work.

After Vaughan died in a senseless helicopter crash in 1990, his brother Jimmie went back through the vaults and found 10 songs that Stevie and Double Trouble had recorded between 1984 and 1989 during the sessions for the three albums in the time period. The resulting album is 10 utterly fantastic songs with the ebb and flow of a real album and one that touches on all of Vaughan’s styles. Not once does this sound like odds-and-sods or cleanup collection, the way these things can sometimes do. It’s an organic entry into the Vaughan catalog that acts as a perfectly fitting end to his recorded career.

Vaughan’s lyricism wasn’t simply in his words but in the fluidity and soul of his guitar playing. Nowhere is this more evident than on the long, instrumental cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” which was good enough to win a Grammy and which honors the spirit of the original while taking it into a very new direction. It’s then followed by the rollicking boogie “Wham,” a Lonnie Mack cover that would reappear in a live form on the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Texas Flood reissue. It’s the sort of pulse-pounding rave-up that Vaughan did so well, and after the serious “Little Wing” it’s even better.

Many of the songs are restatements of things Vaughan had already said, which is not a bad thing by any means and perhaps explains why they were left off the albums in their time period. “The Sky Is Crying” is a solid blues-rock piece very much in the man’s wheelhouse, but it’s the song Jimmie wanted most heard of these ten, while “Boot Hill” and an alternate version of “Empty Arms” (the only song here that appeared elsewhere previously) are simply very good Vaughan fare.

“May I Have A Talk With You” wallows in slower blues with an extremely good solo that reminds the listener why we all loved this guy in the first place; Vaughan’s guitar cries more than any vocals every could, and his heart is invested in these notes as much as in Howlin Wolf’s original. The Willie Dixon cover “Close To You” is standard at best, but “Chitlins Con Carne,” written by Kenny Burrell, pays homage to its jazzy roots and allows Vaughan a chance to explore a style he rarely indulged (“Stang’s Swang” and the live “Mary Had A Little Lamb” come to mind as other rare examples). “So Excited” is another instrumental and an original song; it’s a fine jam with a great solo, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and just sort of fades out after three minutes.

As is fitting to end a career, the acoustic “Life By The Drop” closes the set, just Stevie and his guitar on a song written by Doyle Bramhall about his friendship with Vaughan, written from Bramhall’s perspective. It’s nakedly emotional, evocative, and one hell of a way to say goodbye from a guy who said goodbye far too soon.

The Sky Is Crying transcends its origins as a patchwork collection to become a great blues-rock album in its own right. It’s better than Soul To Soul and Couldn’t Stand The Weather and one that Vaughan fans and devotees need to own, although with all the reissues and bonus tracks and box sets and vault-clearing stuff, it may be redundant by now. No matter. Stevie is always worth the listen, and on that we can all agree.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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