Pop Music Review : Chris Duarte Group: The Power Is Threefold


Loud, tough, raw, raging--the real deal. The rafters are probably still shakin’ at the Coach House from Sunday night, when the Chris Duarte Group from Austin put on a sweat-steeped showcase that confirmed the hype, and then some, behind the latest Guitar God and his cohorts.

Duarte falls comfortably into the Texas tradition of such guitar studs as Freddie King, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the Group aspect of the CDG should not be overlooked: Without bassist John Jordan and drummer Barry (Frosty) Smith, Duarte would just be one more of countless hotshots throughout the land--talented but as common as mud. The collective work of this mighty, mighty trio brings to mind the majestic thunder of Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Jeff Beck Group, packages that added up to much, much more than the sums of their parts.

At 32, Duarte is a lightning bolt of unrestrained energy; he plays with the speed and flash of a young metalhead but without sacrificing an iota of essential blues feeling. Jordan plays a six-string bass and utilizes every fret to full advantage, filling up what often can be gaping holes in the trio format, a la prime Jack Bruce. Frosty--who looks like a demented Santa Claus on a bender--is a minor drum legend in his own right: Anyone who saw him work his magic with Lee Michaels in the early ‘70s undoubtedly went away talking more about Frosty’s powerful chops than the specious star’s. Put it all together and you’ve got the most exciting group of its type to ignite a stage in years.



The group looked like it smelled bad--and that’s a good thing. The musicians wore battered, torn jeans and T-shirts onstage, the better to swelter and marinate in. They rocked hard and unapologetically, with eyes closed and pores open, flopping around the stage, apparently not caring whether the clones in Stetsons and Hawaiian shirts who populate the Southern California blues scene might be put off by such a display of rock-borne bliss.

Duarte’s singing is, ah . . . not up to snuff with his guitar heroics (truth is, he’s a pretty dead-stinky vocalist) but he seems to realize it and keeps the instrumental workouts burning at the fore of the show, raising the stakes to ever-higher levels as the set progresses. Also to his credit, he avoids meaningless patter, confining his remarks to the occasional “Thank you” or “Howya doin’ tonight?,” letting the music speak for itself.

The Chris Duarte Group is not out to blaze any new trails in the blues, make any personal statements or impress anyone with how Texas-genuine it is. But for folks simply out for a good ol’ evening of music to make their ears bleed, music with volume and chops galore, these plaque-toothed rockers deliver the goods with a cold six-pack on the side. God bless ‘em.