If you're into flashy, ear-splitting guitar pyrotechnics, check out Jay Hooks' self-titled debut on Provogue. The Houston native is an admirer of Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his best moments definitely call to mind those blues-rock guitar gods.
Even Hooks' slower blues tunes ("Straight Whiskey," "If Life Don't Kill You," "The Last Time I Left Memphis") sound wild on this release. Playing in a classic trio format, Hooks rips through 11 original numbers (most co-written with David Whitehead), and only decelerates for one solo acoustic cut, "When Your Lover Don't Love You." The latter is the weakest track on the album, if only because it showcases Hooks' singing more than his guitar work, and he's barely adequate in the vocal department. On most other songs, Hooks' hyperkinetic electric guitar compensates for his mediocre vocals.
"Where You Goin'" and "Hell on Heels" summon the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, while "Smothered" is a nasty Texas shuffle with Stevie Ray-like riffing. The instrumentals "Sling Shot" and "Take It to the House" positively burn through the speakers, while "Am I Supposed to Cry?" has a classic rock sound. "Voodoo Woman" is a swampy blues-rocker a la Johnny Winter. "Last Time I Left Memphis" has the deepest blues feeling of any track here.
Jay Hooks might want to follow the example of fellow Texan Smokin' Joe Kubek and hire a good vocalist. Singing clearly isn't his forte, but there's no question Hooks can wield an axe. There are enough thrilling guitar segments to recommend this CD to fans of in-your-face blues-rock guitar.
Track Listing: Easy Way Out; Straight Whiskey; Where You Goin'?; Smothered; If Life Don't Kill You (Lovin' Will); When Your Lover Don't Love You; Sling Shot; Am I Supposed to Cry?; Voodoo Woman; Hell on Heels; Last Time I Left Memphis; Take It to the House
Personnel: Jay Hooks (guitars, vocals); Marie Del Prete (bass); Joe Frenchwood (drums)
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