The latest posthumous release in the Stevie Ray Vaughan catalog is Solos, Sessions & Encores, a collection that features him mostly in a supporting role. Throughout the ‘80s, the Austin guitar slinger melded blues and rock and he always paid tribute to those that came before him. On this CD, Vaughan joins many artists with the fourteen tracks split between the studio and onstage, six of which are previously unreleased.
The opening track is taken from a performance during the recording of the concert video B.B. King & Friends – A Night Of Blistering Blues. B.B. introduces the audience to “some new blood with the blues” as Vaughan trades vocals and leads with Albert King and harmonica player Paul Butterfield on Elmore James “The Sky Is Crying.” B.B. and Lucille are called to join in.
The next four tracks find Vaughan as a session man. Marcia Ball sings “Soulful Dress,” the title track from her 1984 release. Vaughan’s guitar is recognizable, but it’s the sax that takes the lead until Vaughan cuts loose on the second bridge. Next up is Johnny Copeland’s “Don’t Stop By The Creek, Son,” a swamp blues boogie that shuffles along at quick pace. Vaughan easily shifts between blending in and taking the lead on saxophonist A.C. Reed’s funky instrumental “Miami Strut.” On Bill Carter’s “Na-Na-Ne-Na-Ney,” Vaughan returns to his familiar sound backed by a great horn section.
The album then focuses on live performances. Off 2000’s SRV box set is the rare treat of Vaughan and Jeff Beck trading licks on the latter’s “Goin’ Down” from the 1984 CBS Records Convention. It’s the most dynamic track as you can tell they are pushing each other to great heights.
The remaining live tracks are being released for the first time. Vaughan credited Lonnie Mack as a large influence on his playing. He co-produced and played on Mack’s “Strike Like Lightning.” A live version of “Oreo Cookie Blues” is the poorest sounding recording on the album, but even the “less than crystal clear” sound can’t hamper Vaughan’s brilliance from this 1986 New Year’s Eve show in Atlanta and you can hear the crowd eating it up.