Jay Hooks

Texas, USA has a long and storied tradition of turning out some of the very finest blues/rock artists. Included on this list, you will find such greats as Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Johnny Winter, Bobby Mack, and many others. With all of these tremendous artists, Texas blues/rock has become a genre entirely all its own.

Often overlooked in this list of blues/rock “Who’s Who” is Houston native Jay Hooks. Though still a young man of 30 (which sounds very young to this reviewer!) Hooks is nonetheless a very seasoned and proven performer whose sound is deeply steeped in the great Texas blues/rock heritage. However, unlike many of his contemporaries who have opted to stray from the classic sounds of the past, Hooks remains true to the more brash and intense sound that helped to make Stevie Ray and others famous.

His new, self-titled release is on the very fine Dutch label Mascot-Provogue. At their web site, they quote Hooks as saying “…I just plug it in and turn it all up,that’s what I do…”. Indeed, he does just that very nicely. If other guitarists begin their work day by strapping on a axe, then surely Hooks is wielding a chain saw at his office. He is a ferocious and passionate player, profoundly influenced by both Stevie Ray and Hendrix. Like them, his sound is raw and fresh but without sounding like an imitation of either. This is not dance or elevator music and his guitar will not soothe, but rather bite you like a timber rattler. It is a straight ahead, full force, wide open, volume to the max blues/rock addict’s dream come true.

As is the case with all of the CDs I review, this one is good throughout. Jay mercifully inserts a very nice acoustic song into the middle of this set, to allow your pulse time to return to normal before absorbing the balance of the recording. There is so much good material here, but “Smothered” has to be my favorite on the CD. This song should be listened in the dictionary as the official definition for the term “Texas rock”.

The CD is available through the Mascot-Provogue web site or importers such as Amazon.co.uk, which is where I obtained my copy.

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Tolo Marton and Lostiguana – Dal Vero

Most every country has one and there is often disagreement on who it is. No, I am not referring to the most corrupt leader of any given nation, but rather to its national guitar hero. Like debating a favorite sports team, the good natured discussion about a favorite ax slinger takes place in nearly every civilized country on the planet.

I would be hard pressed to name a guitarist more deserving as Italy’s official guitar hero than Tolo Marton. Since the early 70s, Marton has been thrilling fans from all over Italy and beyond with his music, which sounds to me like an Italian Eric Clapton meets Rory Gallagher. His sound is very polished and powerfully beautiful, like Clapton, yet he also displays the more passionate

and edgier sound of Gallagher. While he does not at all remind me of Hendrix, Marton covers 5 of his songs on this excellent 2 disc 27 track live set and in fact was the winner of the 1998 Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition, Senior Division.

While many of the guitarists and bands I review are more of the “beast” variety, I would have to categorize Marton’s work as one of the “beauty’s” of the genre. While he is not lacking for edge, tone, and aggression in his playing, his work is also very clean, crisp, and precise. As stated before, he has a Clapton-ish approach to his work, which certainly means there is an emphasis on excellence. The backing band, Lostiguana which is comprised of Max Michieletto on 2nd guitar, Maurizio Feraco on bass, and Marco Michieletto on drums is very capable and enjoyable to hear.

Marton’s choice of material on this recording, which covers almost 2 1/2 hours, is splendid. He combines outstanding original material with some well known and lesser known covers, all of which suit his style very well. My favorites on the set were very easy to choose: Marton’s tremendous Rory Gallagher like cover of Felix Pappalardi’s “Crossroader”, his smoldering original track “Fought to Change”, a first rate cover of Hendrix’s “Red House”, and a great rendition of Nils Lofgren’s “Moon Tears” are good tunes with which to start. However, the best track on this set of 27 strong offerings is without question Marton’s original composition “My Place Is Close to You”, which is pretty much a capsule of what you get with Tolo Marton: gifted guitar, clean and rich tone, excellent original material, and rock solid vocals and supporting players.

Time does not permit me the opportunity of describing in detail all of the wonderful material on this set, but I do suggest that you order a reasonably priced copy of this double live set and check it out for yourself. Be sure to visit the official Tolo Marton web site at www.tolomarton.com and listen to his sound samples in the “discografia” section, but be advised that the site is in Italian. There are other sound samples and information in English located online at www.mp3.com/tolomarton. Please email Tolo through either of these sites for information on purchasing copies of his titles.

Tom Branson

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