LUCKY 13 reviews (2014)
"Lucky 13", Chris Duarte's 13th album, was
released in October, 2014. It received widespread airplay on college stations
and received some great reviews:
THE SOUND Guitar Magazine (pdf file)
NEW MUSIC TODAY
BLUES ROCK REVIEW
BLUESROCKREVIEW website (3/18/13)
After over two decades of making music, the Chris Duarte Group is still releasing tight new material that is as soulfully driven as it is fun and lighthearted. Given lead singer/guitarist Chris Duartes history with listeners likening him to fellow Texas blues luminaries like Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as the talent he has demonstrated in the studio and on the road since his 1994 label debut Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, its no surprise that Duarte has maintained a lasting presence in the genre. On this high voltage trios latest effort My Soul Alone, the Chris Duarte Group unleashes fresh material that stacks up well beside catalog features of past years. Some albums are memorable for the number of hit singles they deliver, but My Soul Alone is powerful because of the alternate approach it takes. Songs like A Dollar Down and Feeling Low and Blue Jean Outlaw come in at over eight minutes long each, and they both utilize that time to let the music develop at its own pace. Lazy Afternoon is the albums longest track at a length of over eleven minutes, existing as a perfect example of the jazz elements that Duarte has a habit of working into his records. Painting a picturesque day of ease and relaxation through the lyrics, Duarte allows Lazy Afternoon to meander along just like the carefree rainy Sunday afternoon he sings about. Instead of rushing songs along to completion, the Chris Duarte Group invests their time in experimenting with the ways in which solos can enhance the larger compositions they exist in. Other tracks contrast with this exploratory method, diving into hook-worthy melodies like those in the opening track Show Me That You Want It and the rollicking Outta My Way. Above all, the band uses this record to demonstrate their understanding of the genre itself, identifying the songs that blossom beneath perfect melodies and those that reconcile best through extended arrangements with a few jazzy solos mixed in. Named the Best New Talent in a 1995 poll published by Guitar Player, Duarte is still shining the gloss on the skill that listeners first saw and heard in him years ago. My Soul Alone is an enjoyable listen from start to finish, an embodiment of the kind of soulful blues rock that sheds light on the bands creative process through the finished recordings. After years of touring and numerous record releases, the Chris Duarte Group maintains the spark that first rocketed them through fans stereo systems in the 1990s.
by Meghan Roos
An artists lifetime is sometimes dictated by the heights they reach, the reaction they register or the body of work compiled during their working years. Chris Duarte is certainly making a case for his body of work hes producing, this being number eleven of releases, but is he achieving the right reaction for his efforts? With the release of Chris Duartes latest opus, My Soul Alone, Chris Duarte is still reaching for new ground while also throwing out some of his best blues work to date. The maturity in the phrasing and melodic statements are a far cry from the early raw days of his first few releases. This could only be achieved through relentless roadwork that allows Chris to ply his trade and to work and rework melodic ideas. I can practice all day in my basement but its a totally different ballgame when I get on stage. More of a physical dynamic is the currency I trade in when Im playing live. Even though Chris is in the studio, I can hear him getting more physical while there.
The album starts off with a swinging type of blues with a vocal more akin to 40s big band style. The rough and course voice is still there rather than a crooners touch but hes swinging the lines. The guitar solos are full bodied with just a touch of frenetic moments that Chris is known for. Show Me That You Want It sets a good tone for the opening salvo.
Next up is another example of Chris taking clues from his early years growing up and mixing it with these pseudo-country leanings on the guitar. Yes Its You is a nod towards the Beatles and other Pop efforts Chris has been penning and with each release I can hear the improvement. Time will only tell if this song is a winner but it makes me hopeful that one day that hit will come. It will be long overdue.
Take Me Now is more of the naff pop Chris is exploring like his previous release of Summers Child. I keep hearing these retro-like grooves with a Steely Dan-like vocal line over it. Im probably going to go to my grave taking chances like this song. Jazzy guitar work over a bluesy mode wins out on this song. This one always perks my ears up for new things every time I hear it.
Almost every album that Chris has put out with Mike Varney, theres always been a minor blues and a slow major blues on the album. Normally I would really grow tired of the repetition but Chris challenges himself to tweak and twist the songs arrangement so that no two are going to sound like the last. His latest minor offering, A Dollar Down and Feeling Low, stays low and evocative with what I think is his best minor work to date. The phrasing is more moving and flowing with its subtle nuances achingly played. Chriss touch on the guitar is definitely much improved and the notes actually touch the inner core. Then on the flip-side theres Lazy Afternoon with its true reach at a crooner standard style. The lyrics are lyrical and time dated and the guitar work is first-rate jazzy with a touch of B.B. here and there. If we were to stop here with the album I would consider it a success.
We cant deny Hendrix is a big muse for Chris and its plainly stated in this album. Outta My Way is a spot-on Hendrixian nod but obviously with Chriss style thrown in the mix. It starts off with a hard driving riff but then it opens up with the patented Hendrix 7th chord accents that propel this rocket of a song on its way. The guitar accents are vocal-like and at times a frenzy. The quirky lead in to the middle solo is typical of the twists and turns for originality and lends to it that turn-on-a-dime wildness. The next Jimi offering is Cant Shut Me Out. First the riff at the top and then in comes the effects-drenched guitar. With an almost vocal-like quality to the guitar the phrasing is no doubt from Jimi and the driving rhythm underneath enables all the elements to come together when the vocals start. The interlude at the top of the chorus is the only departure from the Hendrix mode but it plays well with the chorus hook shouted out. Another adrenalin-driving guitar vehicle and I wouldnt expect anything less on this album. This is the CDG weve come to know and love.
Jumping back on the blues side of the album, because if theres one thing that put Chris Duarte on the international stage; it is his blues playing. Being known and referred to as a blues player is not a hindrance to me. If theres anything that makes it easier for people to relate to me or if its easier to gain access to me than its all for the better, Chris remarks. I dont shrink behind it or cringe from it because I love playing the blues. I agree. Its Chriss prowess and originality in the blues field that has always made him an interest to me. So when I heard Sweet Little Girl I knew Chris was drawing from one of his favorite blues masters; Howling Wolf. Back in the day when Chris was just a sideman in Bobby Mack and Night Train, "Howling for My Darling" was in everyday rotation with the band when they played. Its no surprise that the infectious rhythm and drive the song has would be inspiration down the years in his career. Written for his daughter, the vocal phrasing isnt the same as Wolf but the sweet sentiments he gives to his little girl are heartwarming. Then Chris quickly takes over when the solo romps and rolls along this jumping number. Keeping this rhythm going isnt as easy as it sounds quips Duarte, You always find out your studio limitations when youve got to track your rhythm tracks. On the heels of Sweet Little Girl youve also got the Party swing song, Bucked It Up. The male anthem for some of us as Duarte claims as he has not been without his foibles in life. Why not poke fun at it and put your troubles in song. This song is just classic with the Hubert Summlin-like tone on the lead and the rhythm guitar borrowing from piano phrasing and horn section kicks on the chorus. Later the solo tone turns towards a Buddy Guy styling and this party just rocks and rolls. Not to be forgotten is the Stripper like tom-tom beats on the verses. Really like this song.
The title cut, Leave My Soul Alone is Chris giving a nod towards the Black Keys. I was first exposed to those guys when I did the Romp album. Our producer at the time, Dennis Herring, brought that song in, The Romp that is, and it was the Black Keys version of it. It definitely has that stripped down sound with the classic vocal and guitar unison lines in it. With the verse rolling along like a tire with a bump on it, the song then blows wide open with the chorus and a rock and roll scream to Leave My Soul Alone! The guitars thicken up and the drums pound out the booms and the solo is an all-out assault on the instrument itself. Bending and twisting through sonic blasts and high vertical bends it settles back for another verse and then blows up again. Emotionally stirring, this song deserves to be the title cut for its shear ferocity that it wields.
The last two cuts are more experimental and artistic. I just wanted to tell a story in one of the songs and this western motif I settled on was a lot of fun. Telling the story of a young man that takes up a life of crime to feed his family is scattered among this countrys lore. I just wish I could write like Dylan. The guitar is playing this almost hypnotic folk-type melody and the solo comes in mirroring the vocal line and then soaring on high as if its flying in the vast open Big Sky of the Midwestern plains. This song kind of hung with me after it was over. Then we have the most different of all the songs; Carelessness. This came from Careless, the name of the lodge where I met the violin player at during a jam we did in Northern California. The first song we jammed on was Freedom Jazz Dance and it was a blast. Then when Mike Varney thought the collaboration between the two; violin and guitar, could yield some potential fireworks, Mike wanted to get Madz Tolling on one song with the upcoming album. So it was up to Chris to write one for the occasion and with that he drew on their first time together as inspiration. Since it was Freedom Jazz Dance that brought us together then why not come up with a melody thats angular and quirky like Jazz Dance. Add a bit more spice with the solo section being in 7/8 time and then give a nod to John McLaughlin, one of Chriss favorites, and youve got the vehicle for a fusion tour-de-force. Madz' violin just soars throughout the song with the agility and ease of a master conjuring up the voice of Jean Luc Ponty. Chris then answers in his unbounded energetic style that you cant help but bop your head and smile while the drums lay down a furious barrage and the bass acts as the glue that brings it all together. One of the most adventurous songs Chris has put down so far in his career. I hope there are more like this one in the future.
My opinion is that this is a level up in Chriss all around skills. His songwriting is getting better, vocal phrasing and lyrics are better and his tone is still a marvel at how dexterous he can be with the varying styles he continues to display time and time again. Watching Chris grow has not been meteoric but its been steady and hes always reaching new heights on the guitar. In a time when most of our legends have been content to rest on their laurels and continue to mine familiar ground, its a refreshing pleasure to see that Chris always wants to expand and grow even after 20+ years of being on the road. Not many have the energy to do that and not many have the soul to pull it off.
by Robert Holman
REPORT website (2013)
I just received, My Soul Alone, the new Chris Duarte Group release and it's interestingly different. I've been Listening to Duarte for quite some time and one thing that is consistent is quality music that is predictably unpredictable. The CD opens with Show Me That You Want It, a loping Texas style blues with smokin hot guitar riffs... what i typically associate with Duarte. Duarte's music has similarities to SRV but you know, SRV had style similarities to others so it is unfair to make a comparison. This sounds like Duarte... nice and hot! Yes, It's You takes has more of a pop flavor on a Texas contemporary country rock track. Definitely radio time. Take Me Now starts a stronger veer toward jazz/rock with a very light touch on guitar and a Latin rhythm. Duarte shows a strong command of his craft and versatility in guitar style sounding more like Steely Dan. A Dollar Down And Feeling Low is a deep electric blues and one which is destined to be one of the big callers on this release. There is a real attraction by blues guitar enthusiasts for tracks like this and Duarte blends his voice nicely on this track with very heartfelt guitar soloing. Step back and let the man scream! Very cool! On I Bucked It Up, another loping Texas style blues track, Duarte picks the listeners up from the bottom and feeds them Joe Walsh like vocals over hot, stinging guitar riffs. Yes...this is what you expect! Outta My Way is a Jimi Hendrix styled rocker with layered guitar work. You like Hendrix style... this is right up your alley. Leave My Soul Alone, is a modern yet primitive style blues track. Steve Evans (bass) and Aaron Haggerty (drums) give Duarte a lot of room on their solid steady rhythm to create a smokey blues rock track with a lot of free flowing guitar riffs. Yes, it is a really cool track! Lazy Afternoon, the second of two slower blues tracks is set over some lush guitar chords. The track is staged such that Duarte plays some uncharacteristic jazzy blues riffs which really differentiate his work from many of his contemporaries. Yes, this is a very strong track. Can't Shut Me Out is a guitar rock extravaganza with hard driving bass and drums. Duarte takes another opportunity to stretch the envelope with speed and distortion. Carelessness is a really cool track featuring Mads Tolling on violin. This is a really strong track sounding like it could have been an excerpt from a Mahavishnu John McLaughlin or Jerry Goodman release. I really like J/R fusion when it's done well...and well it is. Kudos to Haggarty and Evans (and of course to the featured Duarte and Tolling) for the intensity it takes to keep this groove going. Great finish!
MUSICIAN magazine (October
"Another chapter in the quirky career of a sometimes misunderstood Texas legend"
Throughout his long and sometimes confusing recording career, Chris Duarte has been misunderstood in a variety of ways. First off, anyone whos followed Duarte's career can tell you that he has never been a wanna be/rip off/clone of anyone. SRV comparisions swarm to Texas guitarists like flies and Duarte has been plagued numerous times with the tag. And his somewhat shocking shifts in style from album to album along with some battles with addiction and other personal demons have left more than a few people scratching their heads in wonder as to who Chris really was as a musician. While Chris's early recording career was split between his classic Silvertone period (which includes his classic 1994 debut "TexasSugar/StratMagik" and its fine '97 follow-up "Tailspin Headwhack") and 2 releases on the ZOE/Rounder label (the eclectic "Love is Greater than Me"  and "Romp" )...it seems Chris has found a home with Mike Varney's Shrapnel Records subsidiary Blues Bureau International, where he has released 4 studio albums and 2 compilations since 2007, a stark contrast to his sporadic early career (an album roughly every 3 years). "BLUES IN THE AFTERBURNER" is the newest Blues Bureau release from Mr. Duarte and just as you would expect from an artist who seems dead set on being unclassifiable, it is quite the eclectic collection. Duarte has been criticized in the past for his somewhat uneven records and depending on how you look at it, this release follows suit. The great thing about a Chris Duarte album is that theres always something familiar along with something unexpected in each release. One almost gets the sense that Chris is always walking a thin line between releasing material that plays it safe for the portion of his fan base that expects him to remake "TexasSugar" over and over, and more adventurous material that gets his creative juices flowing. The album also marks the first time Chris has used session players instead of his usual band. In true Duarte tradition, the album has a live feel with minimal overdubs, and sonically is filled with a nice variety of tones and feels. In terms of sheer musical prowess on guitar, Duarte is in a class by himself. Of course, his vocals have been a constant source of criticism over the years, but when paired with certain material, his voice fits the bill nicely. Guitar-wise, Chris is an enigma...anyone whos caught one of his incendiary live performances knows that he can drop jaws consistently every night with his endless array of licks, riffs, and tones...while never coming across as flashy or over the top. Still to this day, I have yet to see a more brilliantly complex rhythm guitarist than Duarte, be it blues, funk, jazz, or fusion...if he were to forego lead playing all together, his rhythm/comping skills would alone send shivers down any players spine. It's a mystery to me why Blues Bureau doesn't just shell out the dough and release a proper LIVE CD/DVD because that is truly where Duarte's brilliance shines brightest. Just watching Chris perform and play things you've never seen nor heard another player do is a surreal experience. Getting into some of the more familiar feeling tracks, there are a couple of good time danceable cuts ("MAKE ME FEEL SO RIGHT" and "DONTCHA DRIVE ME CRAZY") the obligatory TX shuffle ("ANOTHER MAN") and a pair of slow blues ("BOTTLE BLUES" and "BLACK CLOUDS ROLLING"). On the unexpected side of things, Chris treats us to a few "Americana-tinged" tracks - the driving "MILWAULKEE BLUES" and country-flavored "I'VE BEEN A FOOL" (the latter of which works surprisingly well with a very Dwight Yoakam/Pete Anderson feel). Other standout tracks include "SEARCHING FOR YOU" - a full-tilt rocker that absolutely smokes - "BORN TO RACE" a mid tempo grinder with a early ZZ Top feel - and "SUMMERS CHILD" - a nice melodic ditty with some nice tasty lead and rhythm work. But the real highlight here is the majestic "HOLD BACK THE TEARS" (a Savoy Truffle cover). Alone worth the price of admission, "HOLD BACK..." is an absolute gem of a track, with choir-like swells and backwards lead lines peppered on top of what might be Duarte's best vocal performance to date. Also worth mentioning is the album closer "PRAIRIE JELLY", a 6 minute spastic instrumental fusion freak out jam filled with dazzling free form bursts of spicy jazz inflected phrases. Overall, "BLUE IN THE AFTERBURNER" is yet another release that is guaranteed to generate mixed opinions. One thing is without question though, no matter what the public's reaction, Duarte continues to strive for breaking new ground with his music. Uninterested in retreading the same ground or fitting into the current music scene... unlike some of his more 'popular' contemporaries, Chris's influences do not begin and end with Hendrix and Vaughan. He is a true artist that isn't afraid to follow his muse wherever it leads him. Time will only tell where Chris Duarte's music will take him next...after all, with the talent he has on guitar, it really doesn't matter what direction his material heads in....its just a pleasure and a privilege to listen and go along for the ride.
ALLMUSIC.com website (2011)
When some of Chris Duarte's admirers exalted him as "the new Stevie Ray Vaughan" back in the '90s, it was unfair to Duarte as well as to Vaughan's memory. Vaughan was irreplaceable, and expecting Duarte to somehow fill the void that Vaughan left when he died in 1990 is unrealistic. That said, Duarte has made some exciting contributions to blues-rock -- specifically, blues-rock of the Texas variety, and that Lone Star spirit is alive and well on Blues in the Afterburner. Texas, of course, has been a leader in different areas of the blues. Lightnin' Hopkins, Texas Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson are among the icons of pre-rock Texas blues, while the recordings of Vaughan and Johnny Winter are the essence of loud-and-proud Texas blues-rock. Texas has a proud history when it comes to the blues, so why shouldn't Duarte wear his Lone Star heritage like a badge of honor? And that is exactly what he does on this 2011 release. The San Antonio native/Austin resident is as Texas-sounding on "Hold Back the Tears," "Make Me Feel So Right," and "Searching for You" as he is on "I've Been a Fool" and "Black Clouds Rolling," which is not to say that all of his influences are from Texas. Duarte maintains some Jimi Hendrix influence (Hendrix was from Seattle, not Texas) along with his fondness for Vaughan and Winter, but then, Hendrix was also a major influence on Vaughan. And true to form, Duarte is as expressive with his vocals as he is with his electric guitar playing. Blues in the Afterburner is another memorable, inspired album from Duarte.
by Alex Henderson
CAFEPRESS.com website (2011)
Im sitting here listening to blues recording artist and exciting virtuoso guitarist Chris Duartes new ALBUM Blue in the Afterburner and I must say Im very impressed with everything The song writing, song styles and selections And, Chriss heartfelt vocals make for a great production here too. The Chris Duarte Group continues to improve and refine its craft with each successive release. One thing I notice is brother Duarte keeps growing vocally and of course expanding and crossing over into different blues rock genres to include doses of heavy psychedelia and a few other surprises throughout (to include rockabilly and alt-country). You can hear some very impressive guitar sounds, new licks and arrangements on this CD. This is more of a listening CD for taking a journey into the Blues Rock guitar universe. Producer Mike Varney has a way of getting the best out of the recording artists he works with on his Blues Bureau Intentional Record Label. If you are into Hendrix, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Gales, Joe Bonamassa and katz of that breed, then Chris needs to be in your collection without a doubt. Blues In The Afterburner contains a heavy load of Duartes legendary blues guitar chops over a diverse set of grooves and lyrical themes. I highly recommend this CD I love a good blues guitar player who can go in a few other directions with the same intensity and beyond. Blues Maestro Chris Duarte fits that marquee.
by Scott Thomas
ROCK.com website (2011)
Chris Duarte emerged from the blues scene of Austin, Texas in the early nineties and quickly gained a reputation as an ace blues guitar slinger in the mould of another famous bluesman from Austin - the one and only Stevie Ray Vaughan. 'Blues In The Afterburner' is Duarte's 11th album to date, and certainly confirms the fact that this man sure can play the guitar. The album veers from more traditional blues styles such as the shuffle boogie blues 'Another Man' and 'Make Me Feel so Right', the straight ahead blues rock of 'Black Clouds Rolling' and the Robert Cray-esque 'Bottle Blues', to some more adventurous places along the way. 'Searching For You' is a great slice of heavy riffing hard rock and 'Born To Race' sounds like a lost gem from a 70's era ZZ Top album, whilst the psychedelic jazz blues of 'Prairie Jelly' has Hendrix written all over it. It's the albums heavier, more punchy moments such as these that are the highlights for me. The straight ahead old school Rock'n'Roll of 'Don't Cha Drive Me Crazy' and the slightly naff pop vibe of 'Summer's Child' don't work so well, although the country blues vibe of 'I've Been A Fool' and 'Hold Back The Tears' are decent efforts. If virtuoso blues guitar playing in the mould of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, Eric Clapton, or even Jimi Hendrix is your bag, then you could do a lot worse than check out this album.
by Jim Rowland
BLUESBLAST magazine (2010)
Infinite Energy is the latest release to come from the Chris Duarte Group on the Blues Bureau label. Like his previous outings, "Infinite Energy" is the full package from the Chris Duarte we know and love. Music that is a mixture of Lone Star riffs and Hendrix/Vaughan single note attacks that send the dials into the red zone. Only sometimes you get the impression Chris wants to step beyond those parameters. Of course tracks like "City Life Blues" grow on you with its tasteful jamming. But it's not all bombast threatening to split your skull. Though it flexes a Vaughan muscle, "Cross My Heart" shows a degree of musical restraint that is still maintained in the mid-tempoed rocker of "Waiting On You" that rides on cruise control. You'll only think somethings wrong with Chris if he doesn't acknowledge Hendrix. Opening track "Ridin" comes with chording a la Axis Bold As Love. And "Voodoo Chile" hoodoo is unearthed in "Sundown Blues" which sounds like an outtake from Electric Ladyland. And you really appreciate Duarte when he aspires to be John McLaughlin meeting Eric Johnson on the space blues- jazz of "Cold Cold Day." Believe it or not, the sound seems to soften a few notches in "My Heart Don't Want To Let You Go" until Duarte turns up the heat with impassioned soloing lifted from the Stevie Ray tablatures. Then it's back to the Hendrix cocoon with the menacing brew of "Killin Time" and the beautiful psychedelic wave in "Hamra St." By the time you get to the track "Purple Gloaming," the steam subsides until "Me All Me" clobbers you with a Hendrix mallet. Despite Chris dipping into his standard bag of tricks, you feel he is on the cusp of wanting to take his music to the next stage. He might be closer to his goal then we all realize.
by Gary Weeks
I received Chris Duarte's NEW CD "Infinite Energy" last week and it hasn't left my MP3 player... As for the title, you will get the album's title and meaning just after the first few tunes... Believe me when I tell ya !!! Master bluesman Duarte delves into many styles of blues rock music on this crisp recording and listening to it will definitely stretch your musical horizons even more. Chris's guitar prowess, tone and songwriting just keeps getting better and better with each subsequent album. The deep blues music on this virtuoso's new outing just jumps off the CD at you. And for you blues enthusiasts, you will be hearing some of Chris' freshest deliveries to date. Duarte has a wide vocabulary and doesn't miss a beat at expressing what's exactly on his mind musically... The production here is pristine to say the least. The Chris Duarte Group continues the blues rock legacy with his refined guitar playing and infinite energy. Of course as each NEW album is released from Chris the expectations build and the bar keeps getting higher and higher for him, his band, management, record company and the most important ingredient, his loyal fan base. Chris' blues rock music is reminiscent and brings to mind other legendary diverse guitarists as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Johnson. I give this album 5 stars!
by Scott Thomas
ALLMUSIC.com website (2009)
Proving that the blues not only sees no color but also no country, Chris Duarte unites with Bluestone Company, the biggest blues band in Japan, for a collaboration called 396. Of course, duet albums have a long, storied tradition within the blues -- Junior Wells played with Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter revived Muddy Waters' career, British bands like the Yardbirds supported their hero Sonny Boy Williamson -- so this doesn't feel opportunistic, although it's clearly a way for Duarte to consolidate his Japanese following and get Bluestone Company some exposure stateside. In that regard, 396 isn't a particularly free-flowing jam session, but the album suggests that Bluestone Company aren't really about loose-limbed jams anyway. They're a tight, efficient outfit, working precision rhythms that never lose sight of the pocket.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
GET READY TO ROCK! website (2008)
Chris Duarte is having a party! And that's no mean feat when you have been described as 'The John Coltrane of the guitar' and you enjoy a penchant for angular guitar explorations. But on 'Vantage Point' Chris kicks open the barn door and rocks out big style. The Atlanta based guitarist is one of the most essential players to have emerged from the Austin Texas blues scene. And while Chris has inevitable been touted as the natural successor to Stevie Ray Vaughan and the like, he has his own style which is based on exploring the outer parameters of his guitar playing. And to date, his albums have been a mix of incendiary solo's, different tone explorations and inspired playing. There's more of the same on 'Vantage Point', but like its predecessor 'Blue Velocity' there a greater sense of coherence to the material. And with its mix of tough rocking blues, boogie, funk and even jazzier elements, allied with his intense playing style 'Vantage Point' brilliantly showcases the many shades of Chris Duarte's unique style. Yes there's an undoubted Texas feel to the proceedings and on occasions he does evoke a mix of SRV, Hendrix and even Johnny Winter, but these are but stylistic inflections along a musical journey that is all his own. On the opening long linear lines of 'The Best I Can Do' and the more laid back 'Blow Your Mind' he conjures up some Lonnie Mack style roadhouse rocking. The self explanatory 'More Boogie' finds him building up a real head of steam with his intuitive rhythm section, while 'Troubles on Me' is the kind of intense meandering guitar exploration that sets Chris aside from his contemporaries. He digs so deep in terms of tonality and intense note flurries that you wonder if he's ever going to return back to earth to check in with his rhythm section. Significantly both 'Blow Your Mind' and 'Troubles' enjoy lengthier explorations on two unexpected bonus tracks, giving you an insight into how hard he explores his grooves. Simply stunning! But he does return to base for an up tempo rock and roll work out on 'Let's Have A Party' and evokes the sprit of Hendrix with a psychedelic drenched tone on 'She Don't Live Here Anymore', a number that employs a Zeppelin style stop-time device and change of pace in the middle. 'Vantage Point' will please many of those fans who have long championed this adventurous guitarist. There's been a feeling that he has often been a few songs short of breaking on to a bigger level, but once you hear the tough grooves and burning solo's here, you'll be hooked. My personal favourite is 'Babylon' on which he utilises a catchy repeated chorus and a trademark mesmerising guitar break that might belatedly give him a bit more deserved radio play. The closing Jeff Beck style instrumental 'Woodpecker' is a funked up, warm toned jazzy excursion on which Chris eloquently demonstrates his chops in the company of his excellent rhythm section - Joseph Patrick Moore and Jeff Reilly a gentle reminder if it was needed that for all his brilliance this is in fact a band, the marvellous Chris Duarte Group!
by Pete Feenstra
ROCK PAGES website (2008)
After a career-span of twenty one years and six personal albums (plus the countless session works he did), the guitarist/singer from San Antonio, Texas, spoils his tradition of release frequency and presents a new album within a single year, always in his well known blues-rock style, characteristic of his origins and always very, very interesting. Clearly Texas Boogie Blues-oriented as he always was, in the style marked by musicians as important as Albert Collins, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie (with or without the Fabulous Thunderbirds) and consequently Billy Gibbons and ZZ-Top, Duarte continues under the same sonic badge producing cuts full of energy and guitar work of a higher level. Justifiably considered to be one of the top bluesmen of our days, Duarte releases yet another exceptional album (produced by Mike Varney) consisting of eleven tracks from which one can scarcely pick a favorite, plus two bonus alternative versions of two of the songs already in the album. This is a true Vantage Point for Chris Duarte indeed, as he further establishes his position in the blues world and justifies the fuss made about him all through these years.
by Alex Politis
CD UNIVERSE website (2007)
Good things indeed come to those who wait. It's been a long time between Chris Duarte releases (last one was Romp back in 2003.) but the wait is finally over. Blue Velocity is probably his best release even though I am a huge fan of his and I like all of his music equally. This CD contains nearly 75 minutes of quality blues and rock and roll that will satisfy all of his fans out there. The best of the best on this collection is "Sun Prairie Blues" and "R U 4 Real?" which has a Robin Trower flavor to both songs. Also,"I'll Never Know","Out in the Rain" and "Met My Match" rocks out as only Chris Duarte can do. The blusey songs included are "Leave Her Be" and "Hard Mind" which are excellent as well as the rest of this collection. Needless to say,"Blues Velocity" has a little bit of everything. If you are a Duarte fan,this is a must have. He is also great in concert. If he ever tours in your town, by all means go see him. He's worth every penny and then some. Great job as always Chris.Just please don't wait so long for the next release.OK? ROCK ON,CHRIS!!!
by Phil Rosenberger
BLUES ART JOURNAL magazine (2007)
On arriving on the wider blues scene in the mid-nineties, Austin, Texas blues-rock singer and guitarist Chris was sometimes damned with the faint praise of being called a Stevie Ray Vaughan clone. To be sure, on this set, there are numbers such as Ill Never Know which are most certainly out of the Albert King/Jimi Hendrix/SRV axis, but then there is a slow blues such as Something Wicked, very much akin to early Led Zeppelin in both the vocal and guitar departments or Never Gonna Change which rocks like ZZ Top. Also, many of these lengthy songs feature some fairly traditional styled guitar licks over the simple but very effective bass and drums combination of Dustin Sargent and Damien Lewis respectively before most of them climax in ferocious guitar solos and do take a listen to the raw closer Met My Match. Not one for the purists of course, but if you like your blues-rock loud and heavy but still staying on the blues side of the equation, this CD is for you.
by Norman Darwen
GET READY TO ROCK! website (2007)
It was Michael Katon who first popularised the phrase 'Rip It Hard', and it's the perfect adjective for the Chris Duarte Group who power their way through a high octane set. It's 13 years since Austin guitarist Chris Duarte took on the Steve Ray Vaughan mantle with his debut album 'Texas Sugar, Start Magic', and in that time Chris has shifted from being a sideman, and cult guitarist in his native Texas, to becoming a band leader in his own right who has gradually built up his reputation in Europe. During the intervening years he has looked like making a significant breakthrough but perhaps partly because of shifting contemporary tastes, this post SRV guitar slinger has remained just on the cusp of something bigger. Now comes 'Blue Velocity' an album that might more accurately have been titled 'High Velocity', as Chris rocks out for the opening few bars right through a guitar showcase that takes in hard rocking blues, straight blues, and rock and roll. He sets out his stall on the razor sharp 'Amy Lee', on which he explores every part of his fret board while enjoying an eloquent conversation with the blues. On 'Do It Again', Chris revisits an early career Johnny Winter style through some trademark vocal growls and incendiary guitar lines that Johnny would surely approve of. And by the third track - the impossibly tight shuffle 'Hard Mind'- Chris has already played some of the best licks of his career. On 'Hard Mind' he leans into the song and returns for lashing of straight to the vein guitar phrases, and as the eloquence of his playing on 'Blue Velocity' unfolds you realise you are listening to a guitar master class. And it's a point worth emphasizing as Chris doesn't have the most significant vocal style, but cleverly uses all eleven tracks to coax very possible tone and nuance from his Strat. Whether playing long sinewy lines on the slow blues 'Something Wicked', or through adding a big tone and lots of reverb on the Robin Trower influenced 'Sun Prairie Blues' a style he classily repeats on the subtly constructed solo's of 'R U Real' Chris leaves no stone unturned. On the mighty ZZ Top influenced 'Out in the Rain, he dredged up a guitar avalanche over a rock solid groove, another example of how 'Blue Velocity' is really all about finding new ways to showcase his visceral guitar style. Where Johnny Winter used to bludgeon you with fast repeated guitar lines and SRV used to mesmerise with a mix of startling technique, full use of dynamics and on stage flamboyance, Chris Duarte leaves his own calling card with a fulsome tone, lightning licks, and intense grooves wrapped in a familiar Texas rock blues style. He may not quite have the songs to deliver commercial success, but this road tested rocker is nicely positioned to take the rock blues market by storm, and with 'Blue Velocity' he provides the required ammunition to leave his mark. It may have been a long time coming but it finally looks as if Chris Duarte's star is finally on the rise.
by Pete Feenstra
ALLMUSIC.com website (2007)
Chris Duarte's name is nearly always mentioned alongside those of the late, great guitar gods Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. There is some validity to the comparison, as Duarte does specialize in that high-octane, lightning-bright, raw but intelligent brand of playing that Hendrix and Vaughan had so definitively put their names on, and he does quite often favor their tones and draw on their trademark licks. But those comparisons were only partially true even when Duarte emerged from Austin in the mid-'90s as a promising craftsman, and they're approaching irrelevancy now that he's working his way toward seasoned vet. Duarte has painstakingly absorbed his influences to develop his own signature style and gained his own coterie of fans, and Blue Velocity, Duarte's first release since 2003's Romp, is where it all comes together. With Dustin Sargent on bass and Damien Lewis pounding drums, Duarte emerges here as more of a total artist than in the past the guitar brilliance serves the songs, rather than the other way around. From the thudding, crunching opener "Amy Lee" to the lengthy, melodic mid-tempo showcase "Something Wicked" (OK, he does owe Hendrix big-time for the approach on that one) to the punky screamer "Never Gonna Change" and the roughly Johnny Winter-esque "Out in the Rain," each track is packed with ace musicianship, solid songwriting, impassioned vocals from Duarte and whole lot of fire. But let's face it, in the end, it's that guitar that his fans are going to be gripping onto, and yes, Duarte delivers. On Blue Velocity he transcends those abovementioned names to offer consistently superb, no-frills, ballsy axemanship that will more than satisfy those craving something new in the blues-rock arena. Duarte may never be considered one of the great innovators, but he's certainly one of blues-rock's most impressive current practitioners.
SEA OF TRANQUILITY website (2007)
If we look back to 1994, Chris Duarte was a hotshot blues rock guitarist looking to make a name for himself in the wake of Stevie Ray Vaughan's death a few years earlier. He wasn't alone, as Stevie Ray's passing left a huge hole on the guitar scene, one which many aspiring young guitarists were looking to fill. Now, over a decade later, Duarte has a handfull of solid releases under his belt, his latest being Blue Velocity on Shrapnel's Blues Bureau International label. This one runs the gamut from searing Hendrix/Vaughan styled rockers ("Amy Lee") to rootsy shuffles ("Do It Again") to slow, emotionally draining blues epics like the 13-minute "Something Wicked", a must hear for fans of SRV. Duarte can really muster the spirit and style of our fallen hero when he wants to, as his tone throughout many of these tunes is just oh so tasty and his technique mixes up blues emotion with rock firepower and jazz subtlety. When he dips into his bluesy hard rock bag, like on "I'll Never Know", "Sun Prairie Blues", "Never Gonna Change", and "R U 4 Real?" he invokes images of Hendrix, Marino, Trower, and even Prince and Nugent. Straight ahead rockers like "Leave Her Be" and "Met My Match" also will have appeal to the non-blues community starving for some well-played accessible hard rock. Duarte's vocals are very solid throughout, and although this is most certainly a 'guitar' release, he's thrown in plenty of catchy melodies here that will help bring in some folks outside of the musician community. Bassist Dustin Sargent and drummer Damien Lewis provide the rock solid rhythm team on Blue Velocity, and lay the groundwork for Duartes exceptional guitar work and expressive vocals. A very fine release indeed.
by Pete Pardo
BANDIT BLUES website (2003)
Chris Duarte first CD in three years and the second Zoë/Rounder release is "Romp" which has an old school rowdy-roadhouse sound, with a wonderful recklessness to it! Chris Duarte is a force to be reckoned with, his guitar skills are ear candy to the soul and I know that everyone compares him with SRV, well not this time Chris has establish himself as a talented stylist in his own right and has done well on this CD to really stand out on his own, this is a straight-forward kick-ass rockin' blues CD with the exception of some Texas Blues influence on a couple of songs. I know that Chris has alienated some of his hardcore blues fans in the past, but "Romp" should bring them back around for good! Some of the stand outs on this disc are "Do The Romp" which is the first track and a Junior Kimbrough tribute that really sets the mood for this CD, after the first note you will know that it is covered in Delta based juke joint blues which is rooted in Oxford, Mississippi which just happens to be where this CD was recorded. The second cut is "101" an electrifying 4 minute guitar instrumental that will leave most guitar players very very frustrated, as they will head back to Guitar Lessons 101. The song "My, My" is a very deep and dark blues thang that reminds me of some of the evil sounds that Muddy Waters used to make, hair raisin' stuff! Another great instrumental is "Bb Blues" this song is just falt out fun to listen to, footstomping Texas Shuffle at it's best! Chris has also show cased a more spiritual side of himself on this disc with the song "Take It To The Lord" which will no doubt go down as an all time favorite blues ballad, this song really pulls on your soul-strings!!! Produced by Dennis Herring who also worked on Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, Duarte's debut album, it's quite clear that Chris is getting better with every album and not content just staying with the same ol' proven seller, this is a great CD to add to your blues/rock collection and a must have for any Chris Duarte fan.
by Bob Gulla
CLINK magazine (2003)
From Stevie Ray Vaughan and brother Jimmie to Eric Johnson and Derek OBrien, the grounds of Austin, Texas have proved fertile soil for cultivating flashy electric blues guitarists. Longtime resident Chris Duarte certainly belongs on that esteemed list, as his fourth record makes obvious. The band includes Duarte on guitar/vocals, Ed Miles on drums, and John Jordan on bass. The record opens with the greasy, dirty jam on Junior Kimbroughs Do the Romp, one of only two covers on the record (the other, a sexy, fatalistic take on Dylans One More Cup, outshines the White Stripes version). The rest are all written by Duarte. Industrial-strength riffing is abundant on the smoking instrumentals 101 and Like Eric, Duartes tributes to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Johnson respectively, in which he accurately apes their styles. But the best material are the more offbeat blues numbers like Mr. Neighbor (about the guy next door who may be up to mysterious things) and Last Night. The latter, an anguished, frenzied recounting of a horrible night between a man, a woman, and the devil himself, is the records centerpiece. Its a spooky dive into the pool of despair that Duarte sings effectively in an almost journalistic, matter-of-fact delivery. Not everything lives up, though. Fires Gone Out and Take It To the Lord are riddled with generic blues licks and sentiments in comparison to most of the rest of the record, and My, My seems like a great half of a song. Otherwise, Romp! makes for one helluva fun ride.
by Bob Ruggiero
AUSTIN CHRONICLE newspaper (2003)
When the opening punch of an album is as urgent and below the belt as "Do the Romp," chances are more good hits lie within. Romp, Chris Duarte's fifth full-length over the course of almost a decade, highlights the San Antonio native's modern, guitar-driven blues with style and class. It's not just that he can guitar-check Hendrix ("101") and the Beatles ("Mr.Neighbor") without effort, or even toss off a good cover (Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee"), it's that the longtime local is imminently worthy of inclusion in the crowded pantheon of great Texas guitarists ("B-Flat Blues," "Like Eric," "Last Night"). Despite occasional overplaying, Duarte's mastery of the instrument is as compelling as it is engaging. 3-1/2 stars.
by Margaret Moser
GOLDMINE magazine (2003)
Chris Duarte's fifth album, Romp, presents the Texas-born singer/songwriter at the peak of his skills as a guitarist. Supported with nearly telepathic elan by bassman John Jordan and drummer Ed Miles, he has fashioned an album that blends snarling electric blues with expressionistic rock histrionics galore. That isn't to say that Duarte just can't let the hot jams fly. Indeed, hot jumpers a' la "Do the Romp," "101" and "Bb Blues" form the sonic equivalent of a Vin Diesel action flick and provide the perfect showcase for the 40-year-old guitar slinger to unveil his potent stock of highly amped Stevie Ray Vaughan-via-Jimi Hendrix riffs. More than just a great technician, Duarte employs his Telecaster as a secondary voice, one that articulates moods and thirsts that he cannot put into words. Yet it is Duarte's work on the slower numbers rife with bone-chilling despair that makes the greatest impact. His atmospheric redrafting of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup," the hoo-doo immersion of his own "My, My" and the barely restrained paranoias of "Mr. Neighbor" play out like a rock noir nightmare. This tortured, emotional approach reaches it's peak during the brutal self-admonitions of "Last Night," wherein the singer writhes with shame and self-loathing --- even flirting with thoughts of self-destruction --- during his remarkable seven-minute, one-act catharsis. All is redeemed during the closing allusion to Memphis soul, "Take It To The Lord," which soars with gospel passion and sports edgy, slow guitar work. Haunted by an intense blues atmosphere, Duarte's highly reccomended 10-song set transcends the usual three-chord rock and jams of his contemporaries. Romp is a masterful, cohesive statement wrenched from the soul of a performer who has genuinely hit his artistic stride.
by Ken Burke
GUITAR WORLD magazine (2003)
This disc is about finding fat grooves and wailing, which suits this Austin blues guitarist better than the kilts he used to wear onstage. "Do The Romp" cranks the volume on one-chord, North Mississippi-style stomp, while "101" follows with a lesson in basic Jimi Hendrix. Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee" becomes a slinky psychedelic breakfast, with subtle whammy quavers and probing high-tone leads. Some basic shuffles and fusion blasts share elbow room with trip-hop beats, but the big bad bark of Duarte's guitar always leads his trio like a locomotive.
by Ted Drozdowski
BLUES website (2000)
The Chris Duarte Group plays some of the toughest blues-based guitar music to be heard today, with a sound that balances vitality and rawness with Chriss astonishing and deeply spiritual playing. "Love Is Greater Than Me", their first album in three years, explores soaring post-Hendrix rock (Baddness, Watch Out), blues (All Night, How Long) and the intriguing Eastern modal sound of Metaphor, offered in contrasting electric and acoustic versions. Chris Duarte is esteemed in guitar circles (he placed fourth in a Guitar World poll behind B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy!) and this is the hard-rocking album his many fans have been waiting for, with 11 new original songs.
THE FISHING MUSICIAN website (2000)
This is my favorite album that Chris Duarte has done, and would recommend it as a first listen to Duarte. All of his stuff has some harder edge blues rock material, this in my opinion came as close to blues rock Zeppelin backbeat with a Texas screaming and tube distorted guitar, on top of NEW SONGS I HAVEN'T HEARD BEFORE AND THAT ROCK OUT! Part of the reason this album rocks so hard is the bassist, John Jordan. He's a tower of talent in his own right. John plays both upright and electric, and plays very well. He's a groover too, as you hear as he lays down the foundation for this trio to rock like nobody's business! Jordan is one of those folks who is incredibily talented on a highly technical musical level, but is also in touch with his soul and long ago understood that on most blues, "LESS IS MORE" in many aspects on all instruments in a blues combo. These songs are great songs. Rocking songs with emotive blues guitar playing. There's a lot of folks, guys and gals, who can play the you-know-what out of a guitar. Someone who can speak their emotions, often conflicted and complex, through six strings, ten fingers, two hands and a bunch of ways of hitting the strings and chording and fretting and all. It's not a dime-a-dozen skill, being a Texas blues guitarslinger, and there are all kinds of different ways to do it. Chris Duarte is one of those hard living bluesmen (or has certainly done his share of hard living) and that gritty life comes out in his playing and that of his bandmates. But back to this Duarte CD. It's good. It starts out from the very first note with a rumble and swings and funks and rocks all with that Texas Blues flavor I love so well. The songs are well written, and the liner notes tell the point of his life he was at when some things changed. All I can say is, parts of it for me border on Led Zepplinesque comparison in terms of just plain rocking out in a bit inventive and hard edged of a way, and there's probably only one other album in post 70's rock that had this quality.
Chris Duarte has been many things during his career: Stevie Ray Vaughan heir apparent, psychedelic blues-rocker, light-speedy guitar god. For his third album, Duarte presents a new incarnation. Its a lot like his previous ones, but with an added spiritual element that usually comes later in an artists career. So there are a few introspective pieces hereparticularly Azul Ezell and Metaphor (Acoustic)and a number of efforts at experimentation. One of these is Metaphor (Electric), which arrives just a few years too late for the grunge era. Another is How Long, with Duarte doing his best to sound like Howlin Wolf. Where does all this leave us? Well, its a good album, and theres no doubting Duartes proficiency or his sincerity. It seems, though, that hes still looking for his own voice. Once he can bring his considerable musical arsenal to bear on that, hell be a force to be reckoned with.
by Genevieve Williams
The Chris Duarte Group, a power trio with attitude, has just launched their stongest project yet with Love > Me. The ride is an unbelivable one, starting off with the fuzz funk of Baddness moving through the rollicking Brand New Day and into the melodic All Night, which you cannot sway-proof yourself against. The Led Zeppelin-induced Metaphor Song is as heavy as they come, showing Chris power and versatility. Free 4 Me pulses, and How Long is one of those songs causing the uncontrolled head-bob. But for the all-out Hendrix-a-thon, scramble your brain with Watch Out.. This one burns so hot I wondered if it would be wise to clear the area before playing it again. This song also really shows that Chris rhythm section is pure nitro: John Jordan on the 7-string thunder bass and Jason Patterson on drums form a strong backbone from which Chris can launch his spine-tingling attack. For those who prefer comparisons when shopping, artists like Stevie Ray, Hendrix, and Trower jump to mind. But Chris has his OWN thing: original, powerful and intense. Love > Me is a must-have CD!
by Kelly Benjamin
MUSICIAN magazine (October 1997)
"Coltrane is my idol," admits Austin-based guitarist Chris Duarte. "Everything he did was pure music." In light of his debut, the very Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired Texas Sugar Strat Magik, Duarte's knowledge of Coltrane is somewhat surprising. But the guitarist goes deep with 'Trane. "You listen to how he plays and you try to play in the spirit." That relationship with the jazz giant might make more sense after listening to Tailspin Headwhack (Silvertone), Duarte's follow-up. Not that the guitarist has decided to play jazz. Rather, like 'Trane, he soars with confident new expression and style. Forget labeling him as a blues guitarist: "I'm a musician and I explore music," he states. "For people to label me as a blues player, that's cool; it's the way the system works, but it doesn't do me or what I do justice." You got that right. Produced by David Z, a member of Prince's Revolution, Tailspin Headwhack showcases Duarte's monstrous chops, from funk to punk, from Hendrix ("Drivin' South") to B.B. King (a send-up of "The Thrill Is Gone"), all marked by Duarte's percussive, in-your-face Strat sound and a subtle use of samples, loops and electronics. After earning numerous accolades for his debut, Duarte is a litlle unsettled with his growing reputation as a "guitar hero". "It's something you always want, but when you get there you look back and wonder, "Do I want to go back to comfort and anonymity?" For the guitarist though, the allure of heroism is great. "I like being somebody who'll influence music and younger players. Every true musician should want to make a mark on music," he says with a laugh. "It's like when people say, 'This sounds Hendrixian or Mozartian.' When they hear me, I want people to say, 'This is a Duarte-ism."
by Bob Gulla
BLUES ACCESS magazine (Winter 1998)
At first glance, Chris Duarte looks like any other barroom rocker: Elbow-length ponytail, frayed jeans, cut-up T-shirt, battered Stratocaster. But let there be no mistake, Duarte is different. Though routinely - and unfairly - typecast as one of a few thousand Jimi-Stevie wannabes, the guitarist spends most of his time off-stage listening to John McLaughlin, John Coltrane and post-Bitch's Brew Miles Davis. Hendrix and Vaughan are major influences, sure, but it's not likely they're his only ones. Duarte's music isn't that simple. His first big-label release, the hard rocking Texas Sugar Strat Magik, surprised a lot of people with its brilliant recklessness. But there's nothing reckless about Tailspin Headwhack. It's painstakingly crafted: Duarte recorded Texas Sugar in a week; this one took two months. The blues undercurrent is still present, and Duarte rocks hard, but Tailspin Headwhack is much thicker, the outside influences more diverse. Get out the headphones, 'cause we're talking tape loops, hip-hop rhythms, wah-wah pedals, a little sampling and some serious funk. Much has been made of Duarte's audacity in taking on B.B. King's classic "The Thrill Is Gone". So what? Duarte's version has nothing to do with King's; the words are the same, but that's about it. This is bold stuff. If Jimi the Great were still with us, you know he wouldn't have a problem with Duarte's funk-and-power approach. Snippets of the Hendrix and Vaughan influences appear throughout Tailspin Headwhack, but especially on "Drivin' South", a Curtis Knight and the Squires tune from Hendrix's early BBC sessions, and on the stark-and-dark ".32 Blues". Also on the menu: "Cleopatra", a Junior Medlow tune that Duarte reworked into a stunning rocker, "People Say", classic funk from the Meters, "Crazy", a song originally done by the Vanguards, an Austin-based band that once included Duarte's longtime bassist, John Jordan, and "Crimino", Duarte's thoughts after someone stole the band's equipment in New York City. "Walls" is Duarte's ode to Kurt Cobain. Though well intended, it's a little too alternative and abrasive for this outing. Fortunately, it's the final track and doesn't get in the way. If Duarte keeps this up, the comparisons with Vaughan and Hendrix are sure to continue because, like them, he's a genius.
by Dave Ranney
HOUR entertainment weekly (November 27, 1997)
Subtitling Tailspin Headwhack "Texas metal blues" may have aptly captioned Duarte's full-throttle approach. Full of hell-bent energy, lean and mean, this is about as in-your-face as Texas blues-rock gets, especially in the opening cuts. "Drivin' South", in fourth position, would've made a stronger opener considering the nice angle taken on other tunes like "The Thrill Is Gone". But Duarte holds your attention with a variety of pockets and unexpected textural twists and turns, borrowin a rap groove here and machine-gunning a little Hendrix there. There may be nothing new under the blues sun, but there are some strong style elements here and ferocious guitar, supplanted by Duarte's mostly reserved vocal. Now gimme an aspirin!
by Dean Cottrill
THE BEAT entertainment weekly (November
After Chris Duarte debuted with the release of Texas Sugar, he found himself being compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Now, on Tailspin Headwhack, Chris delves deeper into the exploration of his musical influences. On this new release, Chris adds some "Coltrane-jazz" influence to the blues. This is most apparent on "Crimino". While pure blues comes through on the cut ".32 Blues", don't pigeonhole the axeman, because his "Walls" might make you think of Nirvana. While Duarte's "Cleopatra" could've been taken from the Hendrix catalog, he borrows and drives home the Hendrix tune "Drivin' South". Then he tips the hat further by adding a funky flavor to B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" and the Meters "People Say". The Austin-based Duarte has created a recording that will expand on his title of blues guitarist. Along with his band, including longtime bassist John Jordan, Chris is on his way to creating his own rough edged style. With Strat in hand, we can only guess what we'll hear next from this determined musician.
by Gale Huguelet
WESTWORD entertainment weekly (November
Three years ago, the Texas-based Duarte's debut album, Texas Sugar Strat Magik, brought the impeccable talents of this unique, Coltrane-loving guitar wizard to the attention of blues lovers and musicians everywhere. However, he was largely snubbed by critics at elite jazz-and-blues publications, possibly because some him as nothing more than a pretty boy. Headwhack probably won't land Duarte any features in Down Beat either, and that's unfortunate because this album is even better than its predecessor. Whereas Magik included a number of cuts that led to the usual next-Stevie Ray talk, Duarte's latest largely steers away from such a sound. There a few gut-punching houserockers present, but most of them sport a funk-hop beat that's seldom heard in this genre. Moreover, the sound as a whole is softer, more confident, more diverse. Emblematic is his version of B.B. King's signature tune, "The Thrill Is Gone". By covering this number, Duarte is making a ballsy statement about his abilities as an interpreter and an improviser, and had he faltered, the result would have been extremely embarassing. But he more than justifies the risk: his "Thrill", complete with a hypnotic, trance-like rhythm, is not a mournful cry but an ominous warning. Of course, those listeners who don't understand that Duarte is a jazzman at heart may be left wondering where on Earth he's taking his blues. But it's likely that even they will follow him to his next destination. It should be a colorful and adventurous journey.
by Linda Gruno
ALLMUSIC.com website (1994)
Guitarist Chris Duarte's Texas Sugar Strat Magik is an impressive debut album, showcasing his fiery, Stevie Ray Vaughan-derived blues-rock. As a songwriter, Duarte is still developing -- he fails to come up with any memorable songs, although he does contribute several competent, unexceptional genre pieces -- but as an instrumentalist, he's first-rate, spitting out solos with a blistering intensity or laying back with gentle, lyrical phrases. And that's what makes Texas Sugar Strat Magik a successful record -- it's simply a great guitar album, full of exceptional playing.
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The comparsisons to Hendrix and Vaughan abound, but anyone who typecasts Duarte as a simple clone of those two godfathers of acid blues is simply short sighted. Chris Duarte's first full-length album, Texas Sugar Strat Magik, is astounding on many levels. Sure, it's hard-rocking blues. However, the funk and jazz influences color nearly all the tracks. Take something like "Big Legged Woman." Certainly, one can hear the blues influences, from the scorching guitar solos to the chordal structure. However, one would have to be tone deaf to miss the scratching, funky rhythm of the song. "Big Legged Woman" shares more in common with Wild Cherry or post-Bitch's Brew Miles than with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Duarte reminds me of what Jimi Hendrix may have become: a restless experimenter who fuses jazz, funk, rock, blues, and acid rock with a stamp of originality that many, many musicians should envy. His playing is clean, but sometimes hidden behind a wall of effects and distortion. I'd like to hear an acoustic outing from Duarte. The songs, however, are amazing. I love "My Way Down." It's a blues/rock/funk explosion with a guitar solo that soars above the stratosphere, makes a left at Neptune, and comes back home with alien knowledge of another world. Buy this album!
- J. Newberry
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