uncovering a blues treasure

That's the Truth: Bugs Henderson and the Shuffle Kings Live! (Flat Canyon Records)
Bugs Henderson and the Shuffle Kings

By Paul Moffett

lt's been over thirty years(l) since I heard Bugs Henderson play. That was in Mrs. Anton's Record Shop in Tyler, Texas. Bugs and his band were rehearsing "Caravan"; I was just hanging around.

Louisvillians of a certain age will remember a record that was a hit here and in Tyler titled "Sometimes You Just Can't Win," b/ w "Public Executioner." The band was Mouse and the Traps. Bugs was one of the Traps.

Needless to say, when this CD arrived in the mail, I was intrigued. I had heard only the very occasional mention of Bugs over the years and I knew that he was getting known as a "Texas blues legend" —sort of. l had known him as the first guitar player who I ever saw play his instrument behind his back, with his teeth; etc. Besides that, he was fast. As in Slowhand.

I'm happy to report that the years and excesses of life as a musician haven't slowed him down much. He's still damned fast. In addition, he's learned a lot over the years, and he applies all that he knows to the tunes on this CD. Working with only a trio (his son, Buddy Henderson, on drums, and bass player Keith Jones) , he has room to sail and to fail. He mostly does the first.

Except for "Johnny B. Goode" and "You Can't Sit Down," all the tunes are by Henderson. On "You Can't Sit Down," he gives the listeners a challenge by referencing many other tunes.

Recorded live with no studio "tricks," That's the Truth is not a blues purist's album.

There's some Hendrix influences, there's a little Clapton, there's lots of ZZ Top Texas-style rockin' blues, but it's all Bugs in the end. If you like extended solos, this album will stay on your player for a while. With only nine songs (plus a cut of audio liner notes), the shortest of which is the title track at 4:38, it might seem that a sense of repetition would creep in, but no, Bugs has too many skills in his bag to not engage even the most easily distracted listener. He even has the courage to leave a mistake in the recording, for which he hollers "Sorry," while not missing a bit of the next lick.

Named a "national treasure" in 1994 by Guitar Player magazine, Bugs is finally getting some national recognition to go with the title. This CD should serve to introduce him to a wider audience.