On December 6, 1983, blues history was made when Albert King symbolically passed the torch to one of his most famous disciples, Stevie Ray Vaughan. The pair appeared on the Canadian TV show In Session. While the CD of this performance has been released before, it makes its DVD debut here.
The wait was well worth it as the joy these two legends had playing together is apparent throughout. Interestingly enough, the session almost never happened. King wasn’t aware of who Vaughan – who had just released his debut album, Texas Flood – was until he was reminded that he was the same “Little Stevie” who once sat in with King in the 1970s. The relationship between the pair is very much like father and son, with King directing Vaughan – who had been holding back out of respect for his hero – when to cut loose or when to play more restrained.
The DVD opens with King’s signature “Born Under a Bad Sign,” with the pair trading sizzling leads throughout. King and Vaughan both prove equally adept at not only lead, but also rhythm playing as they lie back and watch the other solo. It’s as much a treat for the players to watch each other solo as it is for the viewer.
Up next is an extended “Texas Flood,” featuring Vaughan on vocals. King recalls how Vaughan always wanted to sit in with his band and that he’d “play a few good licks and then back off.” There’s no backing off here however as Vaughan owns the song with a series of blistering licks. King contrasts Vaughan’s soloing with a more laid-back feel, further adding to the song’s texture. King stands up mid solo (the pair had been seated on stools) as if to announce his presence as Vaughan looks on in awe. It’s worth nothing that while King was a left-handed guitarist, he strung his guitar upside down as he had learned on right-handed instruments. So in essence, he was playing these great leads upside down.
Before launching into a funky “Don’t Lie to Me,” King offers some advice, making Vaughan promise he won’t ever think that he has it made or that he has enough. Vaughan agrees with King, hanging on his every word. Vaughan takes his second lead vocal of the session on his signature “Pride and Joy.” The two-guitar attack gives the song a different feel from the recorded version with both Vaughan and King soloing throughout, making it a standout track on the DVD.
The accompanying CD features many, but not all, of the songs on the DVD. It does however feature songs not included on the DVD, including “Blues at Sunrise,” “Ask Me No Questions,” and “Overall Junction.” It also has a different running order than the DVD. At over 15 minutes in length, “Blues at Sunrise” is the standout piece here. King recalls recording this song at the Fillmore West with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and encourages Vaughan to fill Hendrix’s giant shoes for his leads, which he ably does.
When In Session first aired, many of the segments were cut for broadcast. So not only is this performance being seen for the first time in 27 years, some of it is being seen for the first time ever. This is the only known recording of two giants of the genre playing together and is a must-own for anyone with even a casual interest in the blues.
Article first published as Music Review: Albert King With Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Session… (CD/DVD Deluxe Edition) on Blogcritics.