DVD Review – Roy Buchanan – ‘Live From Austin Texas’

Roy Buchanan was a consummate guitarist’s guitarist who influenced countless contemporaries and latter day disciples, including Jeff Beck, Robbie Robertson, Billy Gibbons, and Danny Gatton. With his mastery of chicken pickin’, violin-like volume swells, and screaming pinch harmonics, he spoke through the instrument like few players have before or since.

The DVD begins with “Roy’s Bluz,” a slow tune whose lyrics tell an evil tale of betrayal and revenge. During the solo, Buchanan combines rapid right hand tremolo picking with over the fingerboard fretting to execute a manic staccato run. Later, he takes a drink of beer while yawning with a look of detached amusement as his left hand articulates an effortless legato lick.

Next is “Soul Dressing,” a funky Booker T. & the MG’s minor key instrumental. Bass player John Harrison and drummer Byrd Foster do their best Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson impressions, while Malcolm Lukens adds Booker T. Jones approved organ grinding and Buchanan solos like Steve Cropper on steroids.

Buchanan and the band mellow down easy on an instrumental version of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams.” Meandering through the major key melody, Roy pulls touch harmonics and behind the nut bending from his endless bag of tricks to hypnotize the audience into a dreamlike trance with this bittersweet, lyrical lullaby.

The mood turns deadly serious with “Hey Joe,” a dark, dramatic, re-imagined rendition of the classic rock standard made famous by Jimi Hendrix. Buchanan shows his sense of humor with an oriental phrase during the verse that momentarily breaks the tension. His solo starts slowly, increases in intensity, and finishes with a flourish while the crowd cheers its approval. Roy tacks on a coda with the riff from “Foxey Lady,” a nod to the genius of the Stratocaster master.

“The Messiah Will Come Again” starts with a soft-spoken introductory sermon. Then the captive congregation applauds in recognition as Roy breaks into the song’s beautiful, haunting melody. Buchanan displays his full range of technique and emotion, employing soulful bends, otherworldly vibrato, and an off the fretboard cascade of chromaticism to punctuate this spiritual psalm of Telecaster transcendence.

While he didn’t receive the recognition deserving of his incredible talent, “Live from Austin Texas” serves as a testament to Roy Buchanan’s contributions to the guitar vocabulary, earning him the title of “The World’s Greatest Unknown Guitarist.”

BOLA TANGKAS