Ah, geography. If Big Gilson were from, say, Texas, he’d no doubt be known as one of the hottest guitar slingers on the scene. But Brazil’s hardly a hotbed of blues activity, and Big Gilson honed his chops in the less-than-nurturing nightclubs of Rio De Janeiro.
First inspired to pick up by guitar by Johnny Winter, Gilson faced an uphill battle. His father flat-out refused to buy him a guitar to play this strange, foreign music, and Gilson had to peddle used magazines on the streets of Rio to acquire his first instrument.
Conventional wisdom has it that adversity makes us stronger, and that may well be Gilson’s case. His attack is positively ferocious as he burns through this live set recorded at New York’s famed Blue Note. With Bruce Ewan and his Solid Senders providing rock-solid backing, Gilson tears it up from the opening notes of his own “Tribute To Roy Buchanan” to the funked-up rave of “Driving Wheel” that brings the party to a close.
In between there are visits to Chicago for Little Walter’s “Blue And Lonesome” and “I Got To Go,” both of which give Ewan a chance to stretch out, Gilson’s own “Cab Driver Blues” with its distinctly urban vibe, and a nod to Elmore featuring guest Bobby Radcliffe (“Shake Your Moneymaker”). Gilson’s Buchanan influence is further emphasised with a passionate yet considered reading of the latter’s classic “[The] Messiah Will Come Again,” while elsewhere there are hints of Freddie King and the aforementioned Mr. Winter.
Gilson’s not a strong vocalist but for the most part acquits himself quite adequately, Ewan relieving him for a handful. But this isn’t a vocal album, and Gilson obviously prefers to let his blazing fretwork do the talking, anyway. Sound isn’t pristine but captures the band in all its sweaty glory – there are no overdubs here, no fixes, just honest music played with passion and soul.
Not quite essential, perhaps, but a fine listen nonetheless. Recommended!