In Session: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Albert King

By James Calemine

Stax Records released Albert King’s seminal albums (like Born Under A Bad Sign) in the early 70s. In 1973, with cantankerous reluctance, King allowed a skinny white kid to sit in with him one night in Austin, Texas. The two got along and played famously together, which set the stage for this 1983 Canadian TV show where these songs were recorded. Flanked by Tony Llorens on piano, his brother Michael on drums and bassist Gus Thornton, King and Vaughan epitomize high-grade blues on In Session.

Vaughan plays the apprentice role well, and yet even King acknowledges his generation is “turning it over” to Vaughan’s. King tells stories between songs along with friendly quips to the younger guitarist. At this point, Stevie Ray Vaughan was ascending in his career. This album reached No. 1 on Billboard’s blues album chart, and for good reason.

“Call It Stormy Monday” sets the tone for this guttural recording. The six-string chemistry between these two legends sounds remarkable and really accentuates the tragic death of Vaughan at 35. King allows Vaughan to lead the band through his hit “Pride & Joy”, while King’s fills and licks only strengthen the song.

Their rendition of B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions” will certainly lively up any social gathering…it has traces of space jazz that most guitarists never attain in their playing. “Blues At Sunrise” verifies Vaughan’s excellent role as lead guitarist—what a master. King even encourages Vaughan to go off on this song, and does he ever.

“Overall Junction” stands as a rollicking instrumental that makes it impossible for the listener not to recognize this recording’s brilliance. This is some of the best guitar playing you’ve heard in the last 25 years. No joke. King’s “Matchbox Blues”, a laid back tune, reveals the mercurial chemistry these two possessed together, and this recording is the only evidence of it.

“Don’t Lie To Me” closes the CD, and the cohesive sound of these players reveals what a great rock and roll band this would have been out on the road. In Session is an essential item for your collection…

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