All of the guitar gods were gone, or otherwise occupied. Drum machines had replaced stomping feet. There were synthesizers instead of someone slapping on the 88s. Into this unlikeliest of scenarios stepped Stevie Ray Vaughan.
He recorded this 1983 album along side a pair of guys in bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton called — brilliantly, anachronistically — Double Trouble, after the Otis Rush song. And they did it live, with few overdubs, basically a mirror image of their stage show. But only after being discovered by John Hammond, a svengali who had previously worked with Billie Holiday, and Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. And after being offered, in the aftermath of a chance meeting with Jackson Browne during the Montreux festival, a warehouse space to record.
Everything, it now seems, fell together perfectly. And yet Texas Flood — seeing a gala Legacy Edition reissue today with the entire original album, a bonus track, and a previously unreleased live set from October of ’83 in Philadelphia — couldn’t possibly be called inevitable.
It was too raw, too real, too frankly weird for that. Nobody made music like this anymore, not with this sound, not with this attitude, not with this low-key grace. This album, even today, seems like a found treasure, like something uncovered after having been hidden long ago, rather than a product of the early 1980s.
Picture what was in heavy rotation on MTV as “Love Struck Baby,” this amped-up Chuck Berry romp, spins. And that’s just the opening track. There’s “Pride and Joy,” a scalding blues workout; the title track, which takes us to the very bottom of a brown bottle; and his groove-tastic take on “Testify” — which completely transformed the old Isley Brothers classic. The original “Rude Mood” is breathless, while “Dirty Pool” peels back every layer of emotion on Stevie Ray’s tensile 1959 Stratocaster. Finally, there’s “Lenny,” a hauntingly ruminative finale to an album that ultimately encompasses everything we learned about Vaughan all at once some three decades back.
For many, Vaughan’s dubbed appearance on David Bowie’s comeback recording Let’s Dance from the month before, and his short stint on Bowie’s subsequent Serious Moonlight tour, represented all they’d heard of this fast-rising star up to this point. Texas Flood offered a more complete accounting of his sweeping talents, and this reissue’s live disc simply explodes the more studied performances with Bowie — which shoe-horned Vaughan into a narrow pop-song format.
If people were already comparing Vaughan to Jimi Hendrix, he seems — on this October 1983 date at Ripley’s Music Hall — more than ready to accede to the throne of the most electrifying guitarist from a generation before. In shot order, Vaughan covers not one, not two, but three Hendrix songs, beginning with “Voodoo Child” and then melding “Little Wing” and “Third Stone from the Sun” in cocky closing salvo. There’s a thunderous second pass at “Testify,” a salacious journey through “Pride and Joy,” and a crackling take on Buddy Guy’s memorable update of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” to boot.
Seven years later, of course, Vaughan would be gone — the victim of a 1990 helicopter crash. This double-disc blast of flinty ambition, fiery verve and grease-popping throwback grooves reminds you all over again what terrible a loss that was.