Guitarist Bobby Mack has been kickin’ around the Texas backroads and roadhouses for better than four decades, and if he hasn’t broken free of the glut of Lone Star stringbenders trying to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, it’s not for lack of trying.
Born in Fort Worth, Mack was a teenager when he moved to Austin, where he quickly earned a reputation as a talented performer, backing up giants like Albert Collins and Luther Allison at legendary venues like the Armadillo World Headquarters and Antone’s.
Unlike the numerous SRV clones, Mack was a contemporary of Stevie and his brother Jimmie, the guitarist drawing deep from many of the same musical influences and sharing stages with a lot of the same players. While history has shown how their careers diverged, Mack is still walking that lonely road and cranking out some mighty fine music, as evidenced by his seventh album, Texas Guitar (Highway Man). A sonic and artistic upgrade of his 1998 European release Highway Man, this 2014 version features spiffed-up vocals and guitar. The studio upgrades can’t conceal the energy and passion that Mack brings to his performances, however, making one wonder why he hasn’t become better known than he has.
Texas Blues Guitar’s title track is a curious hybrid of Texas and Chicago-style blues, with the scorching guitar and wideopen arrangement of the former and the tight rhythmic groove of the latter. The traditionally-styled “Borrowed Time” is a hard-luck tale with plenty of jagged, mournful guitar licks while “Pourin’ Rain” could pass for a SRV outtake with soulful vocals and devastating fretwork. Mack’s “Doin’ Alright” is a scrappy roadhouse rocker designed to get the crowd on its feet, something that the raucous “Steppin’ Out” does to even greater effect. Mack successfully fuses Texas attitude with Southern rock style on the Leon Russell/Don Nix tune “Palace Of The King” and the swaggering “Pumpkin Pie” pairs an infectious Bo Diddley beat with a rockabilly heartbeat. A solid collection of blues and roots-rock, Texas Guitar is a great introduction to Bobby Mack, the best Texas blues guitarist you’ve never heard (but should).
– Rev. Keith A. Gordon