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.
Vaughan made his way to the 1988 New Orleans Jazz Festival and played with “swamp boogie queen” pianist Katie Webster on the song “On The Run” and traded some hot licks with Albert Collins on a fantastic instrumental jam called “Albert’s Shuffle.”
On Saturday Night Live in 1985, Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger introduced Vaughan, his brother Jimmy, and Double Trouble for a cover of Doyle Bramhall’s “Change It.” It’s Vaughan at his purest on this album, growling the lyrics and creating such a beautiful sound, a sad reminder of what we’ve lost.
The oldest track in the collection is Lou Ann Barton’s “You Can Have My Husband.” Vaughan was working in Nashville in 1978 and with Barton and W.C. Clark they were known as Triple Threat Revue. Vaughan’s sound is instantly recognizable and sounds so good it makes the listener what took so long to get the man a record deal.
The album closes out with Vaughan working with three legends. Bonnie Raitt sounds great playing slide guitar on “Texas Flood” at the 1985 Bumbershoot Festival. Vaughan duets with Dick Dale, the king of the surf guitar, on Dale’s “Pipeline” for the movie “Back to the Beach” although they recorded separately. The final track was Vaughan’s first introduction to the majority of the general public, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
Solos, Sessions & Encores provides a great mix of styles and artists Vaughan worked with over the years. Some fans will be disappointed that only half of the material is new and Vaughan isn’t the focus, especially considering the hefty $19 retail price. However, throughout his career Vaughan always honored his influences and other performers, so it is easy to believe he would have released an album just like this to help bring attention to others. For those that already own some of these tracks, waiting until the new material appears on iTunes or a similar service would be a good decision. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong adding this disc to your collection.