In the midst of a blues boom, Rory Gallagher roars back
By Susan Whitall

When Rory Gallagher decides to take a flyer, he doesn't mess around. After years of soul-numbing touring up and down the American" continent, the Irish blues guitarist bailed out, took a detour back to Europe and sequestered himself in the recording studio. For six years.
But now he's back with Fresh Evidence, a collection of blues-rock on a new label, Miles Copeland's I.R.S. Records. And I.R.S. has acquired all of his past work and will release it on compact disc, except for his earliest recordings on Polydor.

"You can just stay away from the States so long," says Gallagher from his hotel in San Francisco. "It's all the better when you come back; you get a fresh view of things. But I don't think I'll stay away that long again."

The shows on his current, three- week swing through the States have been packed. In Los Angeles, guitarist, Slash, of Guns 'N Roses jumped onstage to jam with Gallagher.

"Slash came up before the show and asked if he could come up for a song, so we said sure, we'd take a chance," says a bemused Gallagher. "I'd heard a couple of their records, so I knew he could play."

Gallagher's return to the American touring circuit couldn't be timelier. This is, after all, the year in which sales of 50-year-old blues recordings - the Robert Johnson CD set - have astounded the music industry. But the Irish guitarist insists all that is just a happy coincidence.
shivrory6.jpg"I am delighted, though," he says. "This new blues boom is healthier than the previous ones; it's a bit  more serious"
"Some of us have been playing this music all along," he adds. "Although for a couple years in the 80's things were fairly difficult; you wouldn't get a review or played on the radio. People were more interested in techno-pop and video fashion."

And the lone, gun-slinging guitar hero was distinctly out of style.

"Yeah, lead guitar was not really popular because in punk and new wave they didn't want the 'excesses' of lead guitar," says Gallagher. "But now a lot of young people are getting into it again. Also the blues has been reassessed as more than just a jamming music; it's considered a serious form.
Now in his early' 40s, Gallagher is a native of Cork, Ireland. While still a 14-year-old school boy, he took to the road with an Irish show band, a traveling orchestra which would play the hits of the day to every far- flung town in the country. This wasn't exactly what Gallagher had in mind, though, so he formed a six -piece R&B band, the Impact, and took it to  Hamburg, Germany.

By 1967 Gallagher had whittled it down to a trio, named it Taste and made tracks for London just in time for the Summer of Love. Taste played a legendary run at London's Marquee Club, counting among its fans, John Lennon. Gallagher was soon the youngest hotshot guitarist on the block.

By 1970 he'd gone solo. While he' was most successful in Europe in the , '70s, selling in the platinum numbers, he made some 25 tours of the United States. Detroit audiences came to know him from several appearances at the Royal Oak Music Theatre in the late '70s, when they'd call him back for nine and even 10 encores.

Now he's returning to Detroit, for a performance tonight at the Key West Club. How's the blues scene here? Gallagher wants to know, and a discussion of the difference between Detroit and Chicago blues ensues.

"I think Detroit blues has usually been a little freer," Gallagher muses, "with less emphasis on dru
ms and more between guitars playing different lines, as opposed to rhythm and lead. That's partly due to John Lee. Hooker's influence."

Rory Gallagher
* WHERE:  Key West Club, 24230 W.Six Mile, Detroit
* WHEN: 9 tonight
* TICKETS: Call 592-0092

"This new blues boom is healthier than the previous ones; it's a bit more serious."

The guitarist loves country blues,  but notes that "the blues revival tends to be all modern type of blues.  Except for someone like John Lee Hooker; "there's not that much interest in country blues. The danger is that the blues could become a sort of yuppie hit."

On Fresh Evidence, Gallagher tackles some country blues himself,  including a song written by Son  House, Empire State Blues. On that I cut Gallagher played an old 1932 National steel guitar, painted brown.

"We recorded it in one take, oddly enough," he says. "in a drum booth with drum mikes. It's an homage to Son House, but I have my own approach to it. And it's quite a difficult song to record because the rhythm of the vocal lines breaks up with the guitar."
Another Delta-style blues on the album, Ghost Blues, he wrote himself ."I cut that in a couple of takes," he says. "The engineer didn't really have time to mike it properly and the drums were feeding back into the acoustic guitar mike. But as a result, it sounded very immediate, the way an old blues record would be recorded. I didn't want to stop the session because we would have lost the mood."

Perhaps most surprising cut is a  zydeco tune titled the King of Zydeco; a tribute to the late New Orleans musician Clifton Chenier. It was recorded in London, with all British musicians. Gallagher had seen Chenier perform in Switzerland just before he died. What he loved about Chenier's records was their casual air, and their dreamy evocation of a simpler time.

Says Gallagher: "It's a sort of escape from the stress and pressure of  modern life in the big city to go to 'this mythical juke joint in the South, where someone like Clifton Chenier is playing."

One rock dream that's still within a fan's power to fulfill is that of going to a club and finding Rory Gallagher tearing up the stage. Because it's as a live performer that Galiagher is matchless. A wired-up ball of Celtic energy onstage, he sweats so much he's worn the finish off a few Stratocasters. And he approaches guitar playing with a passion that fuels the blues with a unique power and leaves the audience as wet as he is. Bring a towel.

This article comes from a March 1991 issue of the Detroit News
Thanks to Shiv Cariappa for sending the article along
reformatted by roryfan
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added 11/23/08