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Taking Off

[whitespace] Chris Cain
Air Guitar: Chris Cain instrument takes off without
him on the cover of his latest album.

Local blues guitarist Chris Cain arrives on an 'Unscheduled Flight'

By Nicky Baxter

F IRST THE not-so-good news. After releasing three critically acclaimed discs on Blind Pig Records, Chris Cain (who appears Friday at the Agenda in San Jose) is right back where he started, recording for the tiny Redwood Valley-based Blu Rock'it label. The good news is that the San Jose blues player's Unscheduled Flight is bustling with the sort of diverse music we've come to expect from him. Cain's music can be derivative, but just as often, his emotionally stirring brand of blues transcends his influences, revealing a musician with an unquestionable commitment to his craft.

Unscheduled Flight starts fast with "Drinking Straight Tequila," a blistering blues rocker. Cain's gin-and-cigarettes-scarred vocal approach remains as rugged as ever, while his playing recalls Stevie Ray Vaughan's maniacal rhythmic fervor. On the low-keyed "Good Old Days," Cain reveals a knack for slyly sharp-edged observations on rocky romances. In a weary voice, he upbraids a girlfriend for using her past like a bludgeon: "If your good old days were really that good, then how'd you end up feeling so bad? If you can't get past those days, then go back to what you had."

The album runs into turbulence only when Cain feels compelled to pay homage to two of his heroes. On "Change My Luck" and "Something's Got to Give," he replicates Albert King's razor-edged style; on "I Still Want to Believe," he mimes B.B. King's "Lucille." The problem is that we already know that B.B. and Albert's playing has had a profound impact on Cain's; each of his previous recordings has made that apparent. It's time to move on. Happily, there's plenty of solid music to compensate for the momentary lapses. The organ-treated funky blues of "Bad Situation," the slow-train-to-hell blues of "The Day All Your Good Luck Goes Away" and the uptempo beat of "You Give Me the Strength" all bear repeated hearing.

Chris Cain performs Friday (Jan. 30) at the Agenda, 399 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $5; 408/287-4087)

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From the January 29-February 4, 1998 issue of Metro.

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