There are often a number of albums per decade which have continued to stand the test of time decades since release, and Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble is definitely one of them from the 80’s. It’s also one of the finest debut albums by anyone and really injected the blues with a much needed adrenaline shot, bringing the genre back to the ears of millions.
From hearing the opening riff of Love Struck Baby, the opening song from the album, you know you’re going to be in for the ride of a lifetime. The song is dripping with Texas blues magnificence heightened by the chemistry of the band members. The whole album was recorded live with zero overdubs and the pinpoint accuracy of Vaughan’s guitar playing paired with the solid foundation of Tommy Shannon on bass and Chris Layton on drums results in what only can be described as one hell of an album opener. Things don’t stop there of course with Pride And Joy coming next, one of Vaughan’s most well known songs. The tone that Vaughan manages to coax out of his Strat on this song is sublime and one of the all time greatest guitar tones, period. The solo at 1:39 tells you all you need to know about Stevie Ray Vaughan. Things get slower with the next song, although if you think that means less explosive you’d be wrong. Texas Flood is a cover of the original by Larry Davis who wrote it in 1955 and released it three years later. But it’s without a doubt a song that Vaughan made his own, to the point where you automatically think of his version above all others. As great as his vocals have already been on the album it’s a slow blues like this which really shows off his singing ability beautifully as it’s just as strong as his guitar playing. In the second half of the song is another great solo which pins you to your seat while you listen to it, that Strat tone piercing every fibre of your being.
- Love Struck Baby
- Pride And Joy
- Texas Flood
- Tell Me
- Rude Mood
- Mary Had A Little Lamb
- Dirty Pool
- I’m Cryin’
Tell Me couldn’t sound more different to the original by Howlin’ Wolf. While Wolf’s version is more laid back, Vaughan takes the riff and turns the energy and volume up to the max. The energy in this song is incredible and he channels all of it through his guitar. An instrumental comes next in the form of Testify, originally by The Isley Brothers. The fast paced nature of his playing here alongside the following song Rude Mood really adds another dimension to the album. Rude Mood in particular has a very 50’s sound to it even though it’s a Vaughan original. It’s a great shuffle and at 264 beats per minute extremely difficult to play which only highlights their chemistry as a band.
One of my favourite songs on the album, and one of my favourite Stevie Ray Vaughan performances full stop, is the Buddy Guy cover Mary Had A Little Lamb. It’s a gorgeously delivered song with, yet again, a tone to die for. You’ve got to remember that every song on this album features three guys and only three only, a trio, the best band format known to man. Cream set the template 17 years earlier in 1966 and it was so good Hendrix copied the format with the Experience. Stevie Ray Vaughan does the same here. You just can’t get any better than a trio. Guitar, bass, drums. What more do you need? Dirty Pool follows Mary Had A Little Lamb and it’s another slow blues which again brings out Vaughan’s brilliance for all to see, and hear. There isn’t a moment throughout the whole song where he doesn’t play. If he’s not playing lead he’s playing rhythm, which when you listen carefully, is so delicately intricate. One slip up and things could take a turn for the worse but that never happens. And it’s the way that Vaughan melds the rhythm with the lead that’s so impressive. His playing just doesn’t stop. It’s forever flowing.
I’m Cryin’ is the second to last song on the album and upon first listen it sounds very similar to Pride And Joy. The tempo and rhythm are the same but the song has it’s own soul. But the album comes to a climax with the final song Lenny which remains to this day the most beautiful song he ever wrote and certainly the most recognisable. The guitar playing is Hendrix-esque, think Little Wing, but it’s 100% Vaughan. It’s not just the way he plays the notes that makes this song special, it’s the reverb, the delicacy of the tremolo and the combination of all three musicians together that create such an enjoyable listening experience. I’m listening to the song as I write this and there are numerous moments I’m unable to write down, numerous moments I can’t describe because there are no words to describe them. They are simply perfect and together they make the perfect song. The combination of certain notes together, the way they’re played, the way the bass behind the guitar melds with them in it’s own unique way. All of these things together create perfection.
Overall Texas Flood is an incredible album and my favourite by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. They went on to release three more albums together before Vaughan’s tragic death but Texas Flood remains, to my ears, the best of the best. And one of the best blues albums of all time, full stop.