Have you ever been shopping for someone and bought them a gift and as time goes on, you discover that you really like that gift yourself and eventually you go out and buy another one? Thus begins the story of one of my favorite albums of all time Couldn’t Stand The Weather by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.
It was father’s day which also happens to be not too far from my Dad’s birthday (for the record, I always feel bad for my sister because it goes Father’s Day, My dad’s birthday, my grandmother’s birthday and then my birthday all in July and then my mom’s birthday in early August) and we needed a gift for dad. I’m not completely sure but I think Mom had something already mapped out for his birthday that was more on the expensive side (a tool of some sort most likely) so we thought we’d get an album that Dad would like. Off to Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket and A&A Records, the site of where I bought my first CD and where a teenage idiot version of me would later his on a young Shania Twain (it did not go well and she eventually ended up with some guy named Mutt and platinum selling albums. She has no idea what she missed out on).
We entered the store and as luck would have it, something was playing over the speakers that caught my ear and my Mom’s.
“Who is this?” she asked the clerk?
He replied and started telling my Mom all about the album but I barely paid attention. I just kept listening to it the music as it played. It was a rare instance where I was sure Dad would like it and equally sure I already did. My mom snagged the album and we had our gift.
As it would turn out, Dad loved it, which was great in the most selfish of ways for me. It meant I had five more albums I could get for him and five more albums for me to listen to.
Couldn’t Stand The Weather is Vaughan’s second album and while some may say it’s not a cohesive album in many ways, it is very much a showcase of Vaughan and Double Trouble’s talents. You get rock, blues, even a little bit of jazz, all covered with a blend of Texas spices.
“Scuttle Buttin’” opens the album as a rocking almost surf instrumental number to be followed by “Couldn’t Stand The Weather,” a track that has one foot in the blues and one foot in modern rock. “The Things That I Used To Do,” an older school blues track and then we got to track number four.
I know this might come off as sacrilegious but it is my firm belief that Vaughan’s version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is the best version out there and, I’m being completely honest here, I think it’s even better than Hendrix’s version. There’s something about the energy here that I’ve never gotten from any version of Hendrix’s. Just a power that threatens to knock buildings down.
“Cold Shot” was and is one of my favorite modern blues tracks. There’s a sense of humor to it that I just love. It’s followed by the slow blues of “Tin Pan Alley” the faster, rockier and more cheerful “Honey Bee,” and the album wraps up with the jazzy “Stang’s Swang.” There was a bit of everything for the rock fan and the blues fan and absolutely no one could deny how good a guitar player Stevie Ray Vaughan was.
Now albums with a guitarist like Vaughan usually fall into one of two categories with me. One is they tend to downplay the guitarist’s skill and there are no solos that show the player off at all. The other is what my friend Alex refers to as “guitar wankery”, where the guitar player has taken over the song completely, the solo is just a complete show off maneuver and doesn’t serve the song. Essentially, the guitar player might as well have whipped out his member and shot a load all over the stage. With Vaughan however, all the solos were natural. They were part of the song but still showed off how good of a player he was.
The two people I always feel bad for when talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan is Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, the two guys who made up Double Trouble. While they were not as flashy as Vaughan in terms of playing, they held that band together as a rock solid bass and drum combo. Live, those two guys could let Vaughan wander with solos and not only keep up with him but the minute he laid back into the song, they were right there without skipping a beat.
How much did the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble change my life? So, my Dad ended up getting every one of their studio albums which I would later re-buy for myself. I would also go on to buy a few of the archival releases of Blues at Sunrise and a few live discs. In high school, the very first play I wrote involved a bar where the owner was obsessed with Stevie Ray Vaughan and had themed the entire place with memorabilia. It ended with his song “Live by the Drop.” And to be fair, at the time, I got pretty good reviews but as an adult with much more writing experience under my built, I’d probably do things a little different today.
Couldn’t Stand the Weather is the perfect introduction of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble into the life of any music fan. It’s a good array of what that band could do and while as an album, it may be a little all over the place, every track is worth a listen to.