Dave D'Angelico loves those Texas blues. The grumbling lowdown shuffles and stinging bare-fingered leads that fly out of his amp are all big sky and open spaces. His Tele's tone is mean. But the music's aggression counters his casual delivery and deadpan demeanor, and he traverses the neck with graceful purpose and ease. He's bombed up and down the East Coast for years (hitting a total of three trees in the process), playing numerous festivals and in countless dives along the way.
Dave D'Angelico plays the Texas blues he loves, going so far as to incorporate it into the moniker Texas Son.
But Texas Son ain't from Texas.
"No, but I've been there once," he says over coffee at, appropriately enough, Mark's Texas Hots. "When I started playing, I listened to a lot of Eric Clapton way, way back. It turns out he learned a lot of his riffs from Freddy King and Albert King. Then Johnny Winter came around. And then there was Billy Gibbons and Stevie Ray --- all these guys came outta Texas. And I'm like, 'Wow, we're doing the exact same stuff.' It's kinda like I feel related to these guys musically somehow. That's the connection."
So OK, it's not in the blood or the soil, but his playing is still deep in the soul of Texas and deep in the heart of Texas Son.
Tex has playedguitar for 40 of his 51 years around Rochester in bands like Strider in the mid-'70s, Cold Steel in the '80s, and with Vegas, a group that later turned into hometown blues favorite The Coupe de Villes.
"We had platform shoes and shag haircuts," he says of Strider. But he found himself drawn to the blues.
"It's easier to sing and it's real music," he says. "Spandex pants don't go with the blues, you know what I mean? It's something I believe in. It's reflective of life."
Tex's reflections mirror a tough upbringing.
"I mean if you're talking pain, life pain, it's pretty bad," he says. "It's pretty unusual, like Mommy Dearest." He doesn't elaborate.
And in recentyears he has had to adjust to the onset of Multiple Sclerosis, something he refers to as USF --- "unsure footing." He now walks with two canes and plays seated on a stool. The guitar playing positively burns nonetheless. Frankly, to hear playing this intense from a seated guitarist is perhaps a little unsettling.
"In a way it's confining," Tex says. "But I gotta be careful. That's one thing with my dilemma, when I sit down, everything's pretty cool usually."
But sometimes the music grabs hold and the urge gets too strong. Last year Tex crashed into the drum set after he stood up to play a spirited Hendrix solo.
He is thankful that MS hasn't affected his actual playing, though music isn't his only outlet. Tex is an accomplished artist as well. Several of his sketches and watercolors are on his website. They're thoughtful, reverent portraits of heroes like Roy Orbison and George Harrison (the original is under an ex-girlfriend's bed in Monterey, California).
But Tex isn't sure whether he's a guitar player who paints or a painter who plays the blues.
"Well, I started drawing before I played the guitar," he says. "When you do the art, it's just you and it's a better feeling sometimes that you've created something. It's a nice consuming outlet."
"With music, if it's not right sometimes... There's a lot more people immediately involved. It's all artistic expression, but when I'm on the money, there's nothing like it."
These days, Tex doesn't paint as much. The blues eats up a lot of his time, on the road (avoiding trees) and recording. He has a new all-instrumental CD out called Iced Blue, where the requisite dead-end story lines don't clutter his groove. He still continues to play juke joints, gin mills, dive bars, and nightclubs. He'll even get outdoors --- in the sunlight --- when he plays the Western Maryland Blues Festival in June.
Texas Son ain't flash or glitz. There's no pizzaz. The guitar playing is another story. And once you get beyond this guitar wizardry, you'll hear blues so good, yours won't hurt as bad.
You can hear Texas Son play on Friday, April 29, at Rab's Woodshed, 4440 Lake Avenue, 9 p.m. Free. 663-4610