I have no special fondness for the British interpetation of American blues. I mean, if Eric Clapton can’t cut it, who can? So I was ready to write off British blues altogether until I learned that Muddy Waters was backed by Brits in his London Sessions. That album was panned by some critics, but their reviews may have been based on a pre-conceived notion that the Brits just didn’t have the mojo to back up him up. While the backup didn’t deliver the typical Muddy sound it was skilled, lively, and respectful of the American blues tradition. And who did that scorching guitar work, anyway? That would be Rory Gallagher, the Irishman:
Gallagher really shines on the Muddy Waters tracks. His soloing is concise,incisive and impassioned, his comping tasteful and rhythmically savvy. Performing with greats that include keyboardists Steve Winwood and Georgie Fame and Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, Rory has a well-defined space that he fills admirably, never overstaying his welcome and making his musical statement eloquently in the choruses allotted to him. (source)
Gallagher’s 1961 Stratocaster
Compelled to do a little more research, including a documentary on Gallagher, I discovered a talented guitarist who loved the Blues. He was repelled by the idea of producing singles lest he pander to a lowest common denominator and artistically box himself in. He turned down invitations to take his guitar to Cream, The Rolling Stones, and Deep Purple. Then I saw a 1972 ranking (in Melody Maker magazine) of the guitar greats of the year - Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, among others – in which Gallagher was ranked #1. Then, after hearing few songs, the hooks were in – it’s time to give Rory his due.
This first tune is one he had done with Muddy, I Wonder Who. Be patient for his over-the-top guitar work on the Stratocaster that doesn’t begin in earnest until halfway through the song.
In the second, he continues the theme of the bluesman having lady troubles. This time he plays a slide guitar for Nothing but the Devil.
For some unplugged and mellow Rory, try Banker’s Blues.
Rory Gallagher died in 1995, due to complications of a liver transplant, at the age of 47.