Tailspin Headwhack (Silvertone)
Chris Duarte

By Jeff Kallman

All I knew of Chris Duarte prior to hearing Tailspin Headwhack was that the smart money had him consciously vying to pick up the mantle dropped when Stevie Ray Vaughan's helicopter went down, and that he had even used Vaughan's (and Johnny Winter's) former bassist Tommy Shannon earlier on in the game.

Which told me that here was yet another young chopsmeister with very little of his own to say and no shyness at all about saying it. Do we really need yet another boy wonder with an addiction to sound pedals and the Vaughan/Hendrix axis being hoisted up as one of the blues' next big things?

Tailspin Headwhack is not necessarily that bad, but is it really the blues? I do not wish to sound like the commissioner of the blues police here, but there is a far more pronounced pale funk-meets-the-bar-band-boogie feeling beneath the guitar trickery than there is anything close to the real, deep blues. The band is quite competent but, not counting Duarte's soulless vocals, there is no indication that any of them have any sense of the depth, the breadth or the blood of the blues.

Based on "Cleopatra" and "Crimino," Duarte may have been listening as much to Robin Trower's "Shame The Devil" or "Confessin' Midnight" as to SRV. His rhythm section (bassist John Jordan, drummer Greg Morrow) holds down the same kind of metallic funk which Trower's James Dewar and Bill Lordan held down with more surety, and Duarte seems as interested in atmospheric implications as in good, tight guitar work and bandsmanship.

It's strictly bar-band time for his remake of "The Thrill Is Gone" (to which he gives "R. Hawkins" the songwriting credit - the song was actually written by Dale Hawkins), from the limp vocal and wah-wah guitar to the dangling stop-time middle section. "Catch the Next Line" is only a marginal improvement but still in bar boogie territory and stuck for a way out. The rest of the album does not get much beyond that - except for the set closer, "Walls," which is about as lame a reinterpretation of Robin Trower's Procol Harum workout "Song For A Dreamer" (on which he first made his own Hendrix addiction manifest) as one might imagine.

So how on earth did this fellow get his embryonic hotshot reputation?