The title of his band has changed from "Little Jake" Andrews to "Guitar Jake" Andrews and finally to Jake Andrews. Although he has more than doubled in age, he continues to amaze with his ability that seems to come from somewhere far beyond his years. Maybe it is the water in Austin, Texas, or maybe it is his musical lineage. His father John "Toad" played with the band Mother Earth.
Andrews-the son of a ceiling fan salesman and a homemaker-has been front and center on the Austin scene for over half of his 18 years, turning countless heads with his guitar work and singing since first hitting the stage at age eight. Along the way, he has carved out a reputation as a roots-oriented guitarist and singer/songwriter with one foot anchored in the Texas blues tradition, the other stepping boldly into a musical future of his own making.
Hometown hero Jimmie Vaughan (thanked on Time to Burn's liner notes), whose hard-nosed guitar sound reverberates in Andrews' playing, has said, "He reminds me a lot of myself at that age, young and full of excitement of playing the music. Jake's exactly what the blues needs to keep going-someone with a feel for the music who isn't afraid to take it to new places."
Although still in his teens, Andrews' boasts a blues career many would envy. Having performed with giants Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and others, he has gigged to great acclaim at B.B. King's clubs in Memphis and Los Angeles, Antone's and the Continental Club in Austin as well as the San Francisco Blues Festival.
While proud to be considered part of the tradition of Texas guitar slingers-greats like Freddie King, Denny Freeman, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Bugs Henderson, Anson Funderburgh, Chris Duarte and Ian Moore-Andrews has come to view the blues more as a foundation than a final musical destination.
"I was one of those students enlightened by his parent's record collection," said Andrews by cell phone. "They had all the usual suspects present-Freddie, B.B. and Albert, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Johnny Winter, etc. I never went through a heavy metal/alternative/rap or country phase. I have been listening to R&B and soul and the blues since I was about two-or so I am told."
Andrews said that with all the SRV comparisons, which he hears quite often, he now knows what cats like Duarte, Moore, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mato Nanji, and others deal with on a day-to-day basis.
"It has been relentless," he said, with a quiet chuckle. "Any guitar player from Texas who plays a shuffle is automatically labeled a SRV clone these days. It is flattering, but the blues is a foundation for me. I am not looking to become the next fuckin' guitar hero for the blues/rock genre. I have more respect for myself than that. I just want to write and play positive, up-tempo music that has a splash of Texas soul and blues somewhere in the mix. And I think we accomplished that on Time to Burn."
While many people feel that Jonny Lang and KWS simply act out their parts as blues players, the role seems to flow almost effortlessly for Andrews. On his 13-track album, he plays and sings the kind of rock and blues guitar that would make SRV smile. (Sorry Jake!) Andrews also has a growing legion of fans sharing the same thought.
"Yeah, all over America the turnout has been great," he said. "I have not been home for quite some time-like four months or so-and we have gigs booked all the way through next year, but nobody around here is complaining one bit."
Joining Andrews on the current tour is Mike Sconze on bass (Lawton, Okla. native and ex-Two Guns band member) and Alvino Bennet on drums. Sconze also played on Time to Burn.
From the very first song, the title track Time to Burn, Andrews introduces his style of Texas-licks and Charlie Sexton-like vocals. ("I appreciate the comment," Andrews said. "Most cats have not caught that Sexton-vibe proudly there within my music. They always bring up the SRV insinuations. I also love anything David Grissom has ever done.") The blues are then thoroughly injected with the bluesy-stomp "Cry Baby," and the rhythm and soul of "Just You and Me" and "I Don't Wanna Go Home." The album is a mixture of Texas-stomp, blues and the lick-n-strut style of rock that made SRV famous. ("Stevie was actually out of town a lot when I was growing up," he said. "I never had the chance to see him play live or to sit on top of one of his amp cases.")
On the lighter side, things slow down nicely with the more reflective and gorgeous "It All Passed Me By" and the smooth ballads "Lover To Cry" and "I'm Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine)."
The sound and feel of the album is very similar to when Sexton and the surviving members of Double Trouble collaborated as Arc Angels. The music has more of a smooth flow, however, and while it sounds similar, the feel of the album is different.
Andrews and John Porter (president of Jericho Records) have produced the kind of album that rock and blues fans have been looking for. Andrews provides solid guitar work that is humble and not overstated and hits quality licks and rhythms. He is patient and it shows through as each song flows freely and is not weighed down by extravagant or unnecessary solos or add-on effects. And overdubs-when they are used-are kept to a minimum.
Time to Burn is dedicated to Boz Scagg's son, Oscar. "My father and Boz went to school and played in a couple of bands together as well as share a lot of memories between each other," Andrews said. "My father and I thought it would be the right thing to do considering all that happened with Oscar. Death is a hard reality to comprehend."
A nice array of musical equipment lies in Andrews' arsenal. "My main axe is a 1960 Stratocaster, which is sitting in my lap as we speak," he said. "It is all original except for larger frets and a few other minor modifications. Five days ago I received a 1962 American Vintage Strat from Fender, which-in my limited time of playing-feels quite nice. I also have a 1979 re-issue Gibson Flying V. My effects are limited to an old Tube Driver and a Danelectro Dan-Echo. The Dan-Echo really sounds good. I would recommend it to anyone looking for that sweet 1960s era tape-echo.
"Lately, I have been playing backline; so mostly through Marshall amps and heads provided at the shows-100-watt super lead and a PA head played through old Marshall cabinets. And I use GHS Nickel Rockers gauge .11-.52, which I personally change before every show. At home I have a sweet sounding 1957 tweed Fender Princeton as well as a 1958 tweed Fender Tremolux. Ed Reynolds fixes my guitars and Bill Ussery my amps, both live in Austin."
Andrews' future looks as bright as the color of autumn leaves. "I think we are going to be doing a lot of recording and a lot of evolving," he said. "We will start work on the second project by hopefully the end of the year. It will have been a good amount of time between the first and second album, because it took awhile to get this project off the ground. The majority of Time to Burn was recorded in April of 1998, and it went through some changes. We went back in the studio in November of 1998 and cut a couple of new tracks to add to the album. But you know, bottom line, we just want to have fun with this. It is supposed to be fun. If we are not having fun, it is not something we want to be doing. The whole time that has been the focus, you know, over all these years. It was just a matter of making it a reality. I owe so much to Austin and the musicians there. I'm who I'm because of them and the love my parents have for music. I'm forever grateful."
This review is copyright © 1999 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.