Live Review: Alan Haynes at the J&J Blues Bar Ft. Worth Texas Print
Tuesday, 23 October 2007 18:54
alanhaynes3.jpgBy Nick Friese - Guitar Jam Daily
Just off a dimly lit street in the back alleys of Ft. Worth, stands a true Texas Roadhouse called the J&J Blues Bar. The club is wedged in between a few car lots, rail and a tow yards. The only way you'd ever tell it apart from the impound shacks is from the pulsating blue neon light hanging above the door that carries it's name.

When I pulled in and saw the facade of this landmark Texas blues club my heart just started pounding in my chest. I knew I was in for the kind of blues setting and playing that that House of Blues only wished it could be. The J&J is as down and gritty as Texas dirt. The glowing neon above the chipped and cracked front door was the only light on the street. Like a beacon, it acts as a guide to a club where the smoke clouds fill the air, bras hang from the rafters, banners wallpaper the joint, and the beer is ice cold and the blues is smoking hot.

Saturday night at the J&J was sure to be a scorcher featuring Austin blues man Alan Haynes on the stage.

Alan has been on the Austin music scene for over 30 years and has played with all of the greats from Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Pinetop Perkins, and the list goes on and on. You may not have heard of him before but just ask someone in France, Netherlands, or Japan and they'll tell you he is a bona fide guitar God spreading his Texas guitar gospel.

Legend has it that before Stevie Ray Vaughan formed his band with Double Trouble in the early 80's, he teamed up with Alan Haynes. Stevie wanted Alan to play the role of the lead vocalist in the band but drop the guitar -- as that was Stevie's department. Alan, who was as committed to his guitar playing as his singing said thanks, but no thanks, and Stevie went his way and Alan went his, and the rest is history.

Alan decided that there was no way he could give up the guitar for anyone. When you see and hear him play you understand why he demurred. Undoubtedly, he is as gifted on the guitar and vocals as Stevie was, but simply hasn't had the mainstream success here in the U.S.

I arrived at the J&J a bit late as I was a tad lost on the back lots of Ft. Worth on the drive in. I almost turned around before my eye caught the J&J hide out.

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As I opened the door and stepped inside the smoky, rough, scruffy club my ears started to sizzle from the sounds of Alan Haynes guitar tones. His silky smooth hands flying across his Strat which was going straight into his Fender Vibroverb - no effects, no pick, just fingers, volume knobs, toggle switch and a flood of blues mastery. Alan was in the middle of "Going Down Slow" and standing in the middle of the crowd, as he so often does to connect with his audience.

He's a man that stands tall and proud with his Strat strapped his shoulder just like a Texas (Blues) Ranger ready for anything that comes his way. His left hand was firing across the fingerboard, throwing off ricocheting riffs mixed in with some whip-crack runs, and his right hand triggering the strings, tone, volume knobs, and the toggle switch. Looking at the faces in the crowd, people were ready to give themselves up right then and there.

Alan Haynes pulls more tones from his guitar than someone using a pedal board straight from Hell. This night he was using his usual onboard effects (hands on the fingerboard) to get pinch harmonics, vibrato, crunch, chorus, flange, and a range of other guitar tones that I've never heard anyone pull out of a guitar plugged straight into a basic tube amp. At the show he used his guitar, cable, and amp to the heights of purity. As the saying goes, "it's all in the hands."

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This man is a modern day Blues guitar hero plain and simple. Words just fail to describe the richness of his guitar sound and the bottomless well of ideas that flow out of him.

When GJD's Jim Basra and I caught Alan earlier this year during Summer NAMM, we were both so floored by his playing. Jim called him the "Alien" because does things with the guitar that mortal humans just can't, and should be able do.

But it's not just his playing that impresses, it his vocals excel as well. His phrasing, register, and vocal tone are a perfect lock with his guitar work. Listening to him sing makes you understand how he pulls off such vibrant guitar work. When you watch him play and hear all of the subtleties in his performance you can't help but smile, and even laugh out loud because he is just so slick. You're also guaranteed to shake your head back and forth in disbelief. Check out the clips from the show here

This night at the J&J was vintage Alan Haynes: a perfect mix of incendiary instrumental and vocal numbers. Many of the songs he burned through can be found on his CD Live from The Big Easy - songs like "Diving Duck," "Houston Blues." He ripped out a devastating version of Hendrix's "Little Wing" (Click here to see). Other tunes included "I Wonder Why," "Albert Shuffle," and "Say What." The pops, growls, squeals, shimmers from his bends, pull-offs, spanks, were just classic Haynes during the set.

*Warning* Declarative statement! You're not going to find another guitar player that sounds quite like him or represents Texas Blues the way he does.

Check out clips from the performance here > Guitar Jam Live