It has been six years since Chris Duarte released the critically acclaimed CD "Texas Sugar/Strat Magik," which catapulted him into the blues-rock limelight and bestowed upon him ungodly amounts of Stevie Ray Vaughan comparisons. Three years later "Tailspin Headwhack" hit the record stores and airwaves. And although his loyal fans and admirers accepted the CD filled with guitar-infested rockin'-blues, Silvertone Records severed ties with Duarte after its release.
The 36-year-old San Antonio native is currently out on the road supporting a new co-produced four-song CD, "4X3 Edge" on Aeroliner Records (QYC-006) that he cut with Max Crace. Duarte also plays on longtime bass player John Jordan's latest CD, "Only One."
Southwest Blues recently caught up with Duarte by telephone from his publicist's office. "I am still forever in the pursuit of happiness," he said from Austin with a laugh, "but lately I have been more in tune with my ultimate goal of world domination, which I plan to see all the way through." This goal of his started at the tender age of 17, which just happens to be when he first played music live inside a club. His life has never been the same since. "I am currently living in Austin after making Houston home for awhile," he said with a sigh. "Things are going well. Right now I am in negotiations with a couple of record labels and I hope to sign with one soon. There are a couple of things like promotional budgets and other stuff that still has to be worked out between all of those concerned. Fortunately, I have learned a lot from my association with the last record company (Silvertone Records), so this time I am being extremely cautious and playing everything out in my mind and taking long ethereal thinking walks before I sign on the dotted line."
Duarte said that as long as he keeps his music progressing forward he is satisfied to continue his long-term goal of world domination, as well as his quest for eternal love. "The music industry does not have a lot of moving forces out there at the moment," he said. "I do not know why this is, but it is the truth. Maybe it is because they are not out in the forefront of their genre-hell I do not know. My quest is to try to be an individualist each and every day with myself and my music and I think I have accomplished that on a couple of tunes on my CDs, during our live shows as well as how I have evolved as a human entity. I think I can say that there is a Duarte sound people come and pay to hear, which I honestly appreciate wholeheartedly."
When asked who is moving forces inside the music scene as well as inside his head these days Duarte responds: "Mato Nanji of Indigenous-whom I have known for more than three year-, Jason Christianson out of Iowa and Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers, Derek Trucks Band). In my opinion Mato Nanji is the guitar player that has the most promise among all of the so-called up-and-comers. Sure, he plays a lot of Stevie's stuff, but not too much. I personally never play any songs that Stevie has written because I am from Austin, and that was his thing and we just do not do that down here."
"Which reminds me," he continues. "I want the people who are trying to cop Stevie's chops to make sure they also concentrate on his rhythm guitar playing as well. Stevie was an extremely proficient rhythm guitar player (as is his brother Jimmie); listen to 'I'm Crying' or 'Pride and Joy' to name just a few. The flatted fifths and 13ths, the sharp sevenths as well as the ninths-all the stuff that can be moved up and down the fretboard is extremely important for guitarists to learn and memorize if they truly want to play the guitar correctly. And especially if they want to emulate Stevie's playing.
"I first saw Stevie at the Continental Club in 1981, where he was playing every Thursday. He was already packing them in, and his rawness was just so up front, it just grabbed you by the throat, and you could not believe it. Plus, he was so loud, and it really worked for him. I paid good money to have my ears bleed... Stevie is gonna go down in musical history as an immortal-he really is. He is one of the few musicians that came along in this century that will carry into the next century."
Whenever Duarte hits the road he receives constant offers from promoters and opening acts to allow local guitar slingers to sit in with him and "hook-up-a-thang." One can only imagine how this could lead to interesting nights front-and-center on the venue's stage.
"It does happen a lot," Duarte muses. "And you never really know what to expect as far as are they going to play rhythm, just try and noodle around and show off, or try and outplay me, etc. But in Tulsa, Steve Pryor opened for me the last time I played there and we jammed on a couple of tunes together. What I admired about the brief time that we played together was that he showed me that he could play the kind of rhythm guitar that compliments lead guitar playing. A lot of guitar players that I have seen and jammed with cannot play rhythm guitar that well, which is sad. But Steve knows how to play the rhythm lines that are necessary for a lead guitarist to do their thing. I also detected that he was about to run off and explode on his guitar at any minute, which kept my guitar playing happily busy to say the least.
"He and I have shared more than just the stage together, though. We both share the troubled past of drug addiction as well as the fact that we both recovered from it, which is a miracle in itself. I respect Steve for being able to find his self and his thoughts as well as the fact that he is still alive, playing and making music with the rest of us. Steve is still doing what he wants to do-as far as playing music is concerned-and I respect him for that. I tried to see him a long time ago at the Opera House in Dallas with Stevie Ray, but I could not make the show. I now know what I missed."
Another guitar slinger that has inspired Duarte is the legendary "Motor City Madman," Ted Nugent, whom he thanks on the liner notes of "Tailspin Headwhack." "Ted Nugent helped me out so much after my first album was released," Duarte said. " He alone was responsible for moving at least 20,000 units of that album himself. He was a major childhood hero of mine. And to be able to try and play guitar with him live as well as attempt it on the same stage was the thrill of a lifetime for me, as one could only imagine. I got to sing the harmony parts, 'Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On Baby.' Ha, ha. Great guy. He always comes by and says hi whenever our paths cross out on the touring highway or when we play in or near each other's hometown. And when I say hi, I mean he comes in and sits his ass down and precedes to ask me about 800 questions, which is usually followed by him talking about what he has been up to since the last time our paths crossed. Ted is a very sincere and honest man and I just think the world of him."
Oh, by the way, Duarte is still waiting to hear from his beloved Fender Stratocaster-L14261, the guitar that he learned to play on, which was stolen from him in 1993 in New York City. If you happen to run across her, tell her to call home, collect is fine.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.