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Stevie Zee


Review by Larry Toering

This is what you would call one long awaited follow up, as the incomparable Stevie Zee went from his debut Wail in 1995, (although later reissued with a different sleeve) until into the twenty first century, before recording this equally fine follow up. Once again he recorded a world class set of high energy, contemporary rocking blues arrangements that stay on repeat all night. Recorded in Spain, this time the band consists of Zee himself on guitar and vocals, along with Luca Frasca on Hammond organ and piano, Moises Sanchez on piano, Naco Goni on harmonica, Phil Grijuela on backing vocals, Paco Benitez on bass and Antonio Jurado on drums and percussion. All turn in outstanding performances on the great Caballero. I'm so glad I've been given to opportunity to enjoy and help expose such an artist, as they simply don't get any better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The Sky Is Crying
It's kind of hard not to compare this to the popular Stevie Ray Vaughn rendition. Of course, Zee calls to mind the spirit of SRV even without this connection. It's not just the blues factor either, it's an overall similar approach they have. It's just right up Zee's alley to record such a number, and he cooks as usual here. It's really the perfect cover zone for him. His playing is off the charts already, but there is so much more to go.
Highway 61

This is a delightful treat to say the least.  This has a radio microphone effect, so the vocals add an interesting take on the Sunnyland Slim classic. It is simply fantastic in every way.

Bright Lights Big City

Another tune I've always had a soft spot for, this version is akin to the original without direct copying. Zee gets down to the real nitty gritty here and then some, and he's surrounded by more harp, along with some great organ work to spice it up. The slide work at this point can't be ignored, and it's just a blast of a version.

Painted Angel (Stevie Zee)
This is one of three numbers penned by Zee himself, and it's a masterstroke! There is just no denying this man's gift. What a fine number this is. Of course he keeps one foot in the blues, but this has so many other qualities that it's just crazy. I count this as one of his coolest compositions. It's a sheer thing of beauty. And I must not fail to mention the entire band cooks on this as much as anywhere on both Zee CDs. This rivals his best recorded work.
Red House
A song like this can be so forgiving to anyone who has a crack at it, but it tends to be tougher to transform into something all your own. Zee manages the task. He goes from hot to cold and back again with ease, at one point getting so quiet you can feel the spirit. Still, it doesn't break out until he pulls out a solo of his best variety. I love how he playfully skats over himself throughout this fabulous rendition, complete with some fine Hammond and harp blowing to boot.
T-Bone Shuffle
An album of such standards wouldn't be complete without some T-Bone Walker, and this just kicks. It comes complete with some fine intricate playing from Zee and some fantastic organ fills. Everything moves freely along as they blend exceptionally well, before a brief harp, guitar and organ shuffle builds and they take it down the last stretch. This is another example of the song choices helping, but it's really the red hot band that drives these vehicles.
Can You See The Light
This is another bold choice for a cover, as it's impossible to go wrong with Jeff Healey when you're good enough to take him on. Like with SRV, he nails it just right and stamps the Zee signature upon it. As I listen to this I have visions of watching Healey burn through this, it's that respectfully covered. There’s a great bass solo and overall mid-section breakdown. Everybody gets a chance to play off one another by the time it's over, and Zee is all over the arrangement in the process. There’s some amazing improvisation and guitar meets keyboards interplay.
If You Love Me
This is a Little Johnny Taylor tune that sees the band stretching out quite a bit and Zee displaying some ultra fine leads. In addition, Phil Grijuela provides spot on backing vocals. The piano parts are all on target as well, as they perfectly accompany the arrangement.
Stone Cold Valentine
Speaking of improvising, this is another Zee number, although it's a collaboration with N. Garcia, who isn't included on the disc. This is another smoking hot number where Zee purely sizzles on guitar throughout. There is no lack of consistency on this record. As things wind down there proves to be no room for anything but an even keel.
Sorry Some Day
At the end of the day, Mr. Zee still wants to play. And play like a man possessed he does on this final tune penned by the man of cool himself. All I want to do when I hear him play, is keep hearing him play. He's just so musically right in a world of major uncertainty.
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