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Album Review

Although he doesn't totally transcend his Stevie Ray Vaughan/Hendrix influences, Chris Duarte attempts to progress beyond them — occasionally — on his fourth release, Romp. Kicking off with the greasy Junior Kimbrough-penned title track, he then moves into a sizzling Hendrix-fueled instrumental, "101," which shows his hot-dog guitar prowess but could have been on any of his previous discs. Similarly, the flashy "Like Eric" doesn't hide the fact that if you wanted to hear Eric Johnson, you'd buy an Eric Johnson album. Things finally settle into a more unique groove on "My My." Here his haunting Hendrix-styled distorted fuzz tone nudges a mechanical beat that's creepy and edgy. Better still is a version of Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee," the album's six-minute centerpiece that transforms the original into a dreamy, ominous ode, utilizing near spoken lyrics against a subtle and stark backing. With a slinky guitar solo that reflects the tune's longing, it's where the guitarist finally establishes a distinctive approach, albeit with someone else's song. On the nine-minute "Last Night," Duarte mines similar territory with a brooding, mesmerizing poem of devils and inner demons that sounds like something Jim Morrison conjured up in a heroin-fueled nightmare. His guitar skitters and snakes around the melody, exploding then suddenly pulling back in a dazzling display of restraint and fret shredding that makes you wish he would have maintained this level of menacing intensity for the entire album. "Mr. Neighbor" revisits Hendrix again in a tune that is structured so closely to "Bold as Love" — right down to the guitar tone — you'd think Jimi would get a co-writing credit. The closing, spiritually based "Take It to the Lord" shows that Duarte can compose a religious ballad that doesn't pander to lowest common denominator clichés. He's obviously got chops and good ideas, but Duarte still hasn't quite forged his own sound for an entire album. Romp though, proves that he's getting closer.


Born: 16 February 1963 in San Antonio, TX

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

b. 16 February 1963, San Antonio, Texas, USA. This incredibly talented guitarist/songwriter moved to Austin, Texas in the late 70s, where he immersed himself in the local club scene. He enjoyed a spell with Bobby Mack before bursting onto the blues scene in 1994 with the release of Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, on which he was backed by John Jordan (bass) and Brannen Temple (drums). The album brought immediate acclaim for the band’s gritty, intense southern blues sound, with Duarte singled out for his...
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Romp, Chris Duarte Group
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