Despite the popularity of synthesizers and the like, the Texas blues guitar still holds its appeal. Stevie Ray Vaughan proved that point on his debut album recently, and at the Wax Museum last night an unbridled Johnny Winter did much the same as a house packed with believers cheered him on.
Winter wasted no time in going for the jugular. Working with just a drummer and bassist, he frequently created a fiercely compelling sound. He constructed solos by bending some notes till they cried, sustaining others till they all but disappeared, or clustering them in caustic chords that he pushed up and down the fretboard (with and without the aid of a slide), all at a tremendously fast and tension-mounting pace.
Winter's voice, while not particularly expressive or rangy, still howled like a harsh wind, and it sounded as if it were custom-made on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" and the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Though Winter has performed these songs, as well as the Elmore James-inspired "Mother-In-Law Blues" and "Black Cat Bone," numerous times before, it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer force with which he still plays them. He may not be breaking any ground, but he's still covering the old territory with great spirit and drive.