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CONTENTS Big Bill Broonzy, legendary Delta blues guitarist

GAB ARCHIVES / REDFERNS / GET TY IMAGES

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Joe Bonamassa: most exciting blues guitarist since Gary Moore

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59 Robert Cray: stinging tone and sparse ‘vocal’ style

4 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes


MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVE / GETTY IMAGES

CONTENTS

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72

Hubert Sumlin: this early electric master played with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf

Eric Bibb: pure class meets true blues authenticity

contents 07 TAB USER GUIDE

Our tab guide makes navigating the music in your Blues Heroes magazine simple

08 BLUES SCALES

Learn these scales and you’ll find that everything else falls nicely into place

10 BLUES CHORDS

These are the chords you’ll encounter in blues songs and jams, but they’re usable in rock, pop, country and jazz styles too!

Folder 1 on disc

12 Blues Rhythm

Rhythm is the backbone to the blues, so here are some great moves that will make your chord and riff playing stand out

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46 Blues Slide

Slide or ‘bottleneck’ guitar is perhaps the true sound of blues. We look at slide greats past and present for the perfect overview of this evocative ‘lonesome’ sound

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Style study: Rory Gallagher’s fiery playing mixes Delta, British and Chicago blues with his own unmistakable Irish Celtic influences, for a unique and heady style

56 Electric Blues: Rory Gallagher

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59 Electric Blues: Robert Cray

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Style study: This bluesman has a clear connection to the past but laces his songs with modern sounds and superb phrasing

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20 24 blues hero Licks

This veritable goldmine of licks is based on the playing of two dozen legendary blues guitarists - grab yourself a fistfull!

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30 Vintage Acoustic Blues

Here’s where it all started over 100 years ago. Learn how some of blues’s founding fathers plied their trade and made history

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38 Vintage Electric Blues When blues moved from the farm to the city it also turned electric. These are the players that set the urban scene alight!

62 Electric Blues: Joe Bonamassa

Style study: Joe Bonamassa has stormed the blues scene with one of the most incendiary lead styles we’ve yet to see

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66 Acoustic Blues: Robert Johnson

Style study: This blues master began a legend that marks him out as a mystical genius to this day. That his style is as magical makes him all the more amazing

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69 Acoustic Blues: Big Bill Broonzy

Style study: One of the earliest players to still be working into the 60s, Big Bill Broonzy was a country-folk hero who influenced all that came after him

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72 Acoustic Blues: Eric Bibb

Style study: Coming from a famous musical family Eric Bibb started young. Both are evident in his skill as a player and the pure class he exudes as a performer

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76 Texas Blues

This lesson focuses on one of the most important musical locations in blues history, with masters that include Albert Collins, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billy Gibbons and Eric Johnson

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88 All Star Blues Jam

To conclude, how about a fantasy jam with some of the greatest blues guitarists that ever walked the earth? And when you’ve learnt their parts you can join in!

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97 6 BACKING Tracks

And if that’s not enough here’s six pro-level backing tracks in a variety of styles over which you can practise all you’ve learnt!

Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 5


Lesson CHORD SHAPES

35 Blues Chords... ...you need to know!

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e play rhythm for much more of the time than we ever do soloing. So being a confident chord player is vital. Get familiar with the five ‘essential’ shapes for major 7th, minor 7th and dominant 7th chords and then try some of the ‘useful’ shapes to get more colour into your playing. Roman numerals are often used to describe chords. This is because you can build a chord from each note in a scale, and the numerals refer to which interval the chord is built from. In a blues in the key of A, the ‘home’ chord of A is the 1 chord (I in Roman numerals); the chord of D is the 4 chord (IV) as it’s built on the fourth note in the A major scale (D); and E is the 5 chord (V) as it’s built on the fifth note of the A major scale (E). Likewise, all the chords shown here are shown with each note as an interval, so you can see exactly how it’s made up. Sometimes players add dissonance to the V chord, which usually comes before the start of the next verse. This sets up a tension which is then released when you resolve to the I chord (the first chord of the new verse). Play through the ‘useful’ V7 altered (alt) chords and see if you can get them into the next jam session. Sometimes you don’t want to play chords on five or six strings – they may sound clunky and get in the way of what the keyboard, bass or another guitarist is doing. In this case you can condense all these chords down to two essential notes – the 3rd and the b7th. Have a go at extracting these notes from all the shapes and see how it thins out the sound and gets you moving around the fingerboard quickly. Also, it is common to remove the 5th from a chord – jazz players do it all the time. So try taking this note out and see how you gain more clarity. Experimenting with chords can be great fun, and can lead to new ideas - even the creation of whole new songs.

10 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes

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If spicy with a strong jazz flavour is your thing, you’ll want to nail these next time you play a dominant 7 type chord. Think Kenny Burrell meets Stevie Ray Vaughan!

Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 11


Lesson LICKS

on the disc

folder 2

24 Blues Hero Licks

We’ve tabbed out a feast of great licks in the style of 24 all-time blues giants. They range from easy, to moderate and advanced, come from every era and feature all styles of electric blues. Info

Will improve your…

KEY Various TEMPO Various DVD Folder 2

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✔ Stylistic awareness ✔ Blues vocabulary & phrasing ✔ Use of musical devices

ike each spoken language or regional dialect, every genre of music has its own stylistic vocabulary from which musicians can draw when performing, composing or improvising. Along with other elements such as the tonal shape and instrumentation used, this provides the listener with a frame of reference, so that we can tell in a second or so if we’re listening to metal as opposed to jazz. Being aware of this ‘language’ allows performers to play with confidence and, by being aware of their predecessors, play with authenticity or take the music into places where it has not been before, by introducing elements from other styles to create a new ‘blend’. This allows the genre to evolve naturally, but still serves as a link in the chain of tradition. The evolution that has occurred within blues over the last century illustrates this process perfectly. This largely American music, a fusion of African melodic and rhythmic ideas with European concepts in harmony, was passed on from generation to generation orally. The ‘first person’ nature of blues promotes a type of personalisation that’s fundamental to each performer. Think about almost every blues lyric; it’s almost always ‘I’, as opposed to a style such as folk, which is more often ‘he, she or they’ with the singer taking on the

role of storyteller, or narrator. From its beginnings right through to the present day, it’s crucial that a blues artist develops his own voice. But then again, it’s also vitally important that they are respectful and aware of the traditions of the form, and can put their own personal stamp on the music while remaining true to the genre overall. With this in mind, learning from the past masters is the way to go. Every great blues artist has learnt in this way. They’ve all listened, watched, imitated, stolen, mimicked and paraphrased anybody they can. Like the way we learn how to speak (by imitation and then with cognitive intervention) they’ve put in thousands of hours of listening, watching and playing with previous generations of masters. If their gaze is wide then some cross pollination of styles will likely occur. Likewise if they are inventive and open to new ideas, at some point their own musical voice will doubtless emerge. The purpose of this lesson is to concentrate on just one super-specific area within blues: electric guitar soloing vocabulary. We’ll be looking at how certain stylistic, conceptual or technical considerations can be traced from player to player, and from generation to generation, to illustrate how this chain of influence colours each artist’s note selection and vocabulary. We’ve taken three historical pathways and aligned them to the three most common harmonic situations in blues. So, for major we begin at Charlie Christian and come full circle with Matt Schofield; for minor we see how Lonnie Johnson relates to Philip Sayce; and for dominant 7th the connection goes around from

Do some research into what your favourite players listen to. This way you can go to their sources, and then to their sources’ sources...

Hubert Sumlin to Joe Bonamassa - all with half a dozen players in between. Why not take each lick and see if you can put your own spin on events. A great idea, whenever you learn anything new from another player, is to attempt to write your own version of their phrase, using the same concept but in a way that is more suited to you and the way that you play. The aim is to concentrate more on this personalised approach to playing and eventually to move away from doing things parrot-fashion - still being influenced, but in this case more than just an imitation. Secondly, you should also do some research into who your favourite players listen to. This way you can go to their sources, and then to their sources’ sources if you’re really serious about this, and build your style from this point forth. This way you’re bound to create your own stylistic traits, and your playing will be so much better informed, and hopefully more original and interesting as a result. JW

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For live use, and indeed in the recording studio, most blues players would agree that a good quality valve amplifier turned up loud with a couple of select pedals is the way to go. We’re usually after just one good tone, varying the level of gain by using the volume on your guitar and kicking an overdrive pedal (or two, in the case of Stevie Ray Vaughan) on or off. The gain structure, in conjunction with the output level of your pickups (powerful humbuckers or weaker single-coils), can have a marked effect on the playability and ‘feel’ of your guitar. So select the tone you like... and wail!

listening suggestions Why not treat this article as the basis of your own potted musical history lesson and spend half an hour or so with each featured player on YouTube. Note down the bits you like and incorporate a bit of each to make up your own unique style. This is a great way to learn an awful lot about a specific music style in a very short space of time, and your playing will improve as a result.

20 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes


Minor Blues LICKS Lesson Lesson

Christie Goodwin / GETTY IMAGES

Matt Schofield: influences range from Albert King and SRV to Robben Ford and beyond

Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 21


Lesson vintage aCOUSTIC Blues

on the disc

folder 3

Vintage Acoustic Blues We take a stylistically in-depth look at the acoustic blues greats of the last 100 years, from Son House and Mississippi John Hurt up to Eric Bibb and Kelly Joe Phelps... Info

Will improve your…

KEY Various TEMPO Various DVD Folder 3

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✔ Slide playing in open tunings ✔ Fingerstyle co-ordination ✔ Blues licks repertoire

ew styles provide us with the same level of satisfaction as acoustic blues. In spite of the sorrowful tales the lyrics often tell, there is something deeply appealing about the image of sitting on the porch with nothing but three chords and a beat-up Gibson L1. In this feature, we will be looking in depth at the tricks and idiosyncrasies of the acoustic blues greats from the likes of Robert Johnson and Blind Blake right up to date with modern day masters such as Eric Bibb and Kelly Joe Phelps. A classic sound of early Delta Blues was bottleneck or slide guitar, in which players would adopt an open tuning, typically open E or A, and move an object such as the neck of a bottle, a piece of copper tubing or even a knife up and down the neck creating rudimentary harmonies, and microtonal increments. Charley Patton, Son House and Bukka White were influential exponents of this style who used National resonators to play repetitive open- and single-finger chords interspersed with slide fills, with a simple bass-string accompaniment. Possibly the greatest of all the bluesmen (certainly according to Eric Clapton) was the enigmatic Robert Johnson, whom Son House strongly influenced. Johnson’s mysterious

demise at the young age of 27 is one of the great legends of music. Johnson made just a handful of recordings, notably Sweet Home Chicago and, of course, Crossroad Blues. Much of the early blues fingerstyle repertoire was based on ragtime – a style born out of classical idioms such as a leaping bass pattern offset by a syncopated melody. The most notable exponent of acoustic ragtime guitar was Blind Blake – a player with speed and dexterity considered remarkable even by today’s standards. In contrast to the mournful rural sounds of the Mississippi Delta, the lighter side of blues was demonstrated by figures such as Big Bill Broonzy, whose more urban, populist sound would see him perform at prestigious venues to black and white audiences alike (at a time when segregation was still rife in certain areas in America). Broonzy’s sound was muscular and forceful, sometimes plucking so firmly that the strings bent sharp. He was, however, a highly rhythmic and articulate player, with songs such as Hey, Hey perfectly encapsulating his light-hearted approach. Internationally renowned artists such as Broonzy would inspire and pave the way for new generations of acoustic blues singers and guitarists: Kelly Joe Phelps, a former jazz musician converted to the blues after listening to the old masters such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, brought the skilful touch and precise intonation of a modern virtuoso to the blues. And Martin Simpson, inspired by the likes of Big Joe Williams, switches from English

Internationally renowned artists such as Bill Broonzy would inspire and pave the way for new generations of acoustic blues guitarists.

ballads to authentic Delta blues with consummate ease. Another great contemporary figure is New Yorker, Eric Bibb, a wonderfully tasteful player with a smooth and authentic vocal style. His playing is a mixture of alternating bass, with chord changes implied by improvised fills. The following pages demonstrate a wealth of blues ideas, with examples of slide, ragtime and self-accompanied fingerstyle, culminating in an ‘ultimate blues’ that incorporates a bit of everything. Aim to use these examples as a launch pad for your own creativity. This is such a wonderful style to have under your fingers that everyone can enhance their repertoire by adopting some of these ideas. It’s also very impressive to be able to sit down with an acoustic guitar and, using just two hands and perhaps a lone voice, recreate some of the most moving music of the past century. TS 5

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Most of the early bluesmen like Robert Johnson and Blind Blake used small-bodied acoustic guitars – portable and easy to handle. For slide work, steel ‘resonator’ guitars sound great, and these days there are many excellent and affordable instruments around. When it comes to slides, try a wide variety, bearing in mind that the heavier the slide is, the longer the sustain will be. In reality though, any acoustic should work for all of these examples.

listening suggestions There are many great acoustic blues compilations out there but some favourites include: Son House, Father Of The Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions (1992); Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings (1990); Blind Blake, The Best Of Blind Blake (2005); Big Bill Broonzy, Trouble In Mind (2000); Kelly Joe Phelps, Shine Eyed Mr. Zen (1999); Eric Bibb, Booker’s Guitar (2010).

30 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes


vintage ACOUSTIC Minor Blues Blues Lesson Lesson

DAVID REDFERN / GETTY IMAGES

Son House: this contemporary of Robert Johnson was still performing live in the 1960s

Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 31


Lesson Vintage eLECTRIC Blues GUITAR 1 TECHNIQUES MAGAZINE1 1 8 5 EXAMPLE muddy waters

on the disc

folder 4

VINTAGE ELECTRIC BLUES FEATURE by Jon Bishop

Here’s a classic intro riff to get us started. It is reminiscent of the way Robert Johnson would start a tune and of course Johnson was a big influence on MUDDY WATERS

Muddy and many of the players that came after him. Be aware of the difference between a straight and ‘swing’ feel.

VINTAGE ELECTRIC BLUES FEATURE by Jon Bishop

GUITAR TECHNIQUES MAGAZINE 1 8 5 Ex 1

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although this turnaround idea has its origins in the earliest blues players, it’s still used today by modern guitarists everywhere.

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14 1


Lesson ROBERT JOHNSON

on the disc

folder 9

Robert Johnson Info

Will improve your…

KEY Various TEMPO Various DVD Folder 9

✔ Double-stops ✔ Rhythmic awareness ✔ Finger co-ordination

P

erhaps the most famous of all bluesmen, Robert Johnson’s allure is fuelled by the mystique surrounding his life and death. Like many of the bluesmen of his time, he was a traveller, fascinated and obsessed with music. Born on May 8, 1911 in Hazlehurst Mississippi, he suffered tragedy early in his life - in 1930 his young wife died during childbirth (sadly the baby was also lost). In 1930 he met blues legends Willie Brown and Son House, although at the time he was apparently a dreadful guitarist and jibes from House contributed to Johnson taking to the road. When he returned he had developed into an astounding player; this helped to create the myth that he had sold his soul to the devil, although any improvement was more likely a result of heavy woodshedding! Beyond the blues Johnson’s repertoire included pop tunes of the day, hillbilly music, polkas, square dances and much more. He travelled throughout Mississippi playing everything from street corners to ‘jook joints’ and parties. Johnson only made two recordings but left behind 29 compositions (42 tracks when alternative takes are taken into account). He was discovered posthumously when legendary record producer John Hammond tried to book him for a festival appearance - only to find he was dead. Undeterred, he booked Big Bill Broonzy instead. Johnson’s music twists and turns through shifting time signatures and rhythms, though this is undoubtedly the result of playing what he felt rather than any pre-conceived ideas for metric modulation. Playing both slide and fingerstyle, he created the illusion that two players were there. His influence is vast and many claim him to be at

Robert Johnson Estate / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

We take a look at the complex playing style of the man that Eric Clapton calls the most important bluesman of all time.

Robert Johnson (left) circa 1935, with fellow blues musician Johnny Shines

the very heart of rock’n’roll - perhaps his most famous fan is Eric Clapton, who has covered many of his songs including Crossroads. The most likely cause of his death was poisoning after drinking whisky laced with strychnine, given to him by the owner of a jook joint unhappy with Johnson’s advances on his wife. However, a fascinating recent theory postulates that Johnson suffered from ‘Marfan’s syndrome’, a genetic disorder which results in long limbs and long thin fingers (look at his digits in the photo above) and which can lead to heart problems and the untimely demise Johnson is said to have suffered. SR

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The guitar with which Johnson made his legendary recordings was almost certainly a Gibson L-1. Parlour-sized guitars are great for punching out earthy blues tones as, if you hit them as hard as Johnson did, you can push them into a strange kind of acoustic ‘distortion’. In reality, any kind of acoustic will do, and of course you can play such ideas on electric too - check out the amp settings above for a suggested tone. Keep the sound quite dry with the tiniest hint of overdrive to emulate the power in Johnson’s delivery.

listening suggestions Johnson only left 42 recordings behind, and your best bet is the remastered The Complete Recordings, on which you’ll find all his amazing tracks including: Crossroad Blues (covered by Cream), Hellhound On My Trail, I Believe I’ll Dust My Bloom, Kind Hearted Woman Blues, Rambling On My Mind (covered by Clapton on the Beano album), Come On In My Kitchen and more.

66 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes


ROBERT JOHNSON Lesson EXAMPLE [Bar 7] This is for all those times you looked beyond the 14th fret on your noncutaway acoustic guitar and thought “I wonder what happens up there...” Well, Mr Johnson went there quite a lot... [Bar 15] Watch out for the triplet rhythm here - your thumb needs to pick a steady ‘1-2-3-4- while the picking fingers pluck the triplets on top.

[Bar 1] Here’s a quintessential Johnson-style intro. Robert would have most likely played this lick much higher up the fretboard on the second and third strings but we have spared you that... for now! [Bar 3] Another Johnson hallmark - technically this is ‘oblique contrapuntal motion’, or one part staying in place while another moves against it.

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Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 67


Lesson TEXAS BLUES

on the disc

folder 12

Texas Blues... Five Lonestar Legends

Here we examine five great guitarists,classic and modern, that helped put the blues scene of the Lonestar State on the map. It all culminates in a Fantasy All-Star Texas Blues Jam... Info

Will improve your…

KEY Various TEMPO Various DVD Folder 12

✔ Shuffle feel and playing ✔ Texas blues phrasing ✔ Pentatonic knowledge

T

HE ORIGINS OF the Texas blues sound can be traced back to the 1920s with Blind Lemon Jefferson. Often described as the father of Texas blues, Jefferson’s style influenced almost every artist that followed him. In this feature we will look at five of the biggest names to emerge from the postJefferson blues scene, each offering a unique sound and approach.

Freddie King King’s sound came as a result of using picks on his thumb and first finger. His famous instrumentals showcased his raw style and inspired the likes of SRV, Peter Green and Eric Clapton. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, featuring a young Clapton, famously covered his track Hideaway. King died in 1976 at the age of just 42.

Billy F Gibbons ZZ Top’s guitarist is renowned for his thick tone, squealing pinched harmonics and lazy Texan shuffles. Gibbons’s favoured guitar is ‘Pearly Gates’, a 1959 Les Paul Standard. He has also used a wide variety of Fender, Gretsch and other weird and wonderfully shaped and finished guitars. Billy is still very active, and the band still plays to sold-out audiences.

Stevie Ray Vaughan Stevie Ray Vaughan is surely the best-known blues guitarists to emerge from Texas. Stevie’s playing was dynamic, aggressive and fluent. His ability to play a shuffle was unsurpassed, proof of which can be heard on the track Pride And Joy. Stevie struggled with addiction and, tragically, after becoming clean he was killed in a helicopter crash in 1990 following a concert with other blues legends including Eric Clapton. Although from Dallas, a statue of SRV stands in his adopted home town of Austin.

The origins of Texas blues can be traced back to the 1920s with Blind Lemon Jefferson

Albert Collins Albert Collins’s unique approach has influenced many blues greats. Collins played with his fingers, tuned the guitar to F minor and used a capo to change key. He delivered his licks on a 1966 Tele Custom. His style was very vocal, based around short flurries, ‘question and answer’ phrases, often playing lower open strings then higher-register licks. Collins died in 1993 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Technique focus Texas Shuffle The shuffle is a feel that’s especially associated with Texas blues. It’s a straight 8th-note rhythm played with a slightly lazy feel. If we look at a group of 8th-note triplets, counted as 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3 but replace the first two 8th notes with a quarter note, we can still count in triplets but now the quarter note will last for a 1-2 count, and our 8th note will appear on the ‘3’ of the group, creating the swing or ‘shuffle’ groove. For ultimate authenticity try muting the ‘down’ stroke then catching the chord on the ‘up’ stroke, but in a ‘clipped’ or ‘staccato’ fashion. Check out SRV recordings Pride And Joy and Cold Shot, both of which are great examples of the shuffle. Also listen to La Grange by ZZ Top - Billy Gibbons is on fire on this track, yet another great Texas shuffle.

7

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson is a master of many genres including rock, jazz, fusion, country and indeed blues. His style is unique, mixing fast pentatonic runs with open-string arpeggios, pinched harmonics and exotic chord voicings. Johnson is a musical perfectionist and equally particular about his tone. He is a true guitarist’s guitarist, with the rare ability to use jawdropping speed and technique but remain utterly musical in everything he does.

Fantasy texas jam At the end of our 25 licks - five from each of these great artists - there’s a fantasy blues jam with all these incredible players joining in. JH

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Reverb

Our five guitarists have used a huge variety of guitars and amps so it’s impossible to make sound suggestions other than to say use humbuckers or single-coils where appropriate. As a broad rule though, we don’t want masses of gain, although SRV, Billy and Eric can be pretty distorted. Try the above settings and turn your guitar down to clean things up for Albert and Freddie.

listening suggestions Each of our featured artists has a great catalogue of material available. You could start with some ‘best of’ compilations, which can often (sadly) be picked up in bargain bins. Original albums definitely worth having are Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood, Eric Johnson’s Alien Love Child, Tres Hombres from ZZ Top, Albert Collins’s Iceman and Freddie King, Let’s Hide Away And Dance.

76 / Play Like Your Blues Heroes


Minor TEXASBlues BLUES Lesson Lesson

L. Busacca / GETTY IMAGES

Stevie Ray Vaughan: the ultimate Texas blues man?

Play Like Your Blues Heroes \ 77


Guitar Specials 53 (Sampler)  

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