Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

SRV (Epic Records/Legacy)

In the end, Vaughan's weren't great songs, really; they were great performances that changed every time he took the stage (and Vaughan was far better on stage than in studio; like a great jazzman, he used the audience as his next best instrument). For proof, listen only to that dreadful 1996 A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, on which brother Jimmie, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Dr. John, and other old friends tried to find some way into all those songs that became the stuff of classic-rock radio 18 hours after they were released. Those performers could neither mimic nor interpret "Cold Shot" or "Pride and Joy"; they could claim no ownership, because those songs were not public domain. They belonged to Stevie Ray and no one else. Only Eric Clapton and B.B. King seemed to get it, if only because they were unafraid to cut loose, show off, give it the ol' what-tha-hell. As my old friend Michael Corcoran has often said of Vaughan, he was the ultimate guitar hero because he knew that anything worth doing was worth overdoing. Stevie Ray never kept anything for later, not for the next song or the next show or the next album; he was always spent but never empty.

Stevie Ray Vaughan
Don Hunstein
Stevie Ray Vaughan

One can only hope, though, a collection such as SRV doesn't serve to dilute the legacy. In its rush to immortalize the man, Epic also runs the risk of rendering him so much product; they will fill the bins with so much so fast that customers won't know what to buy, and when they do finally decide, they'll be unable to afford any more, more, more. SRV is essential, but no more than In Step or Live Alive or The Sky Is Crying, the first and still the best posthumous release. Pray, then, that this is the last SRV disc Epic releases this year or this decade, even if there are hours and hours' worth of viable material left in the vaults. (Speaking of which, why no Triple Threat cuts with Lou Ann Barton and Johnny Reno? Talk about nitpicking.) Let the man rest in peace already. It's been 10 years; maybe he needs a break.

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