Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 113

CHECK THIS ACTION

Bill Kirchen (left) and
Dave Gonzalez in 2012.

angelic voice proves
the perfect complement to Gonzalez's
rougher delivery,
and vice versa.
Gonzalez sticks
mainly to his twangy
Fender Custom Shop
baritone Jazzmaster, leaving most of
the solos to Dave
Zirbel's pedal steel
- particularly haunting on "Dreams Of
You." On "Try Again
Tomorrow" Gonzalez pumps the bari
through a fast vibrato setting, and on
"I Got You" he plays
a pretty Spanish solo
on his Epiphone
nylon-string.
I first interviewed
Monster Mike
Welch (who got his
nickname from Dan
Aykroyd) circa 1994,
when he was about
16. There was a raft of
teenage blues guitarists at the time, and
I also interviewed
Jonny Lang, Nathan
Cavaleri, and Kenny
Wayne Shepherd. A video shot 22 years
later shows Welch paying tribute to B.B.
King about as well as anyone I've ever heard
(search youtube.com for "Bluetones featuring 'Monster' Mike Welch Live @ Thunder
Road 9/9/16").
In the years since our first meeting, Welch,
now all of 37, has become a seasoned veteran
and has stuck to the blues - releasing six
solo albums, as a member of Sugar Ray
and the Bluetones, and guesting on CDs by
Duke Robillard, Shemekia Copeland, Tom
Hambridge, and even Johnny Winter.
His latest is Right Place, Right Time, a
collaboration with singer Mike Ledbetter,
best known for his work with Nick Moss.
Welch quickly shows that B.B.'s style isn't
the only trick in his bag, recalling Otis Rush
on "I Can't Stop Baby," written for Rush
by Willie Dixon, and Elmore James' "Cry
For Me Baby." On four cuts, Welch trades
stinging solos with Candye Kane's longtime
guitarist, Laura Chavez.

WORTH FOLLOWING
By Dan Forte

Kirchen and Gonzalez: Patricia Overstreet.

I

t's always exciting to get new CDs by
artists I've been following for years. The
first time I saw the Paladins was at the
San Francisco Blues Festival in the mid
'80s, shortly before the release of the trio's
debut album.
Now, if you're thinking, "What were they
doing at a blues fest? They're a rockabilly
band," you're right - mostly. But especially
at that time, singer/guitarist Dave Gonzalez had a style somewhere between Junior
Watson and the Vaughan brothers - on a
blond Guild X-500 with a Bigsby, drenched
in reverb.
The Paladins are still going strong, but
Gonzalez has excelled in side projects like
the Hacienda Brothers with Chris Gaffney
and the Stone River Boys with Mike Barfield,
and now Think We're Gonna Be Alright, an
album of honky-tonk duets with country
singer Susanna Van Tassel, who moved from
California to Austin in '95 and quickly made
her mark in the city's roots scene. Her high,

October 2017

113

It's gratifying to see that someone who
could've shone too brightly too quickly has
steadily gotten better and better. And the
"Monster" monicker still fits.
Jack Petruzzelli is one of the rare cases of
someone I heard years before I realized it,
probably because his resumé was so varied
- as multi-instrumentalist on tour and on
record with Patti Smith, Joan Osborne, Rufus
Wainwright, Ian Hunter, Donovan, and
others, in addition to being one-fifth of the
Fab Faux, the ultimate Beatles tribute band.
As "Jack Snax," he recently released a solo
album, Lake Songs. As one might expect, it
features him playing tastefully rather than
shredding. Think George Harrison, whose
influence is felt on "Want To Believe."
Petruzzelli wrote or co-wrote six tunes
and Osborne penned "Madison," on which
she duets. They range from "Jack's Aunt,"
somewhere between Tom Waits and the
Beatles' vaudeville side, to the beautiful
guitar instrumental "Star Sixty Four."
The artist I've followed the longest in this
grouping is Bill Kirchen, having first seen
him shortly after Commander Cody and His
Lost Planet Airmen moved to the Bay Area
and played the '69 Berkeley Folk Festival,
where they also backed Doug Kershaw.
A never-released 1973 tape of the Airmen,
Live From Ebbetts Field, a club in Denver,
showcases the group in all its gonzo glory.
In addition to steel legend Bobby Black, it
features Kirchen on classics like Blackie
Farrell's "Mama Hated Diesels" - also included, incidentally, on Farrell's excellent,
long-awaited debut, Cold Country Blues,
co-produced by and featuring Kirchen.
In 2012, I went to Gruene Hall, allegedly
"Texas' oldest dance hall," to see Kirchen, and
before he went on, he asked if I wanted to sit
in. Though I've chickened out in such situations and later kicked myself many times,
that day I was relieved that I declined. About
two-thirds into the set, Dave Gonzalez sat in,
and he and Kirchen proceeded to burn up the
famously muggy Gruene. I may be stupid,
but I wasn't dumb enough to follow that!
I finally got to sit in with Bill last year at
Dallas' All Good Cafe. In the middle of "Milk
Cow Blues," he waved to me to take over his
Tele, so he could pull out his first instrument,
the trombone. Playing alongside my favorite
country guitarist, on his fat-neck Rick Kelly
Tele through a reissue Magnatone, was an
experience I'll always cherish.

VINTAGE GUITAR

© 2017 Dan Forte; all rights reserved.


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