Bar Band Blues

Unlike his Fat Possum labelmates, guitarist Dave Thompson's blues sound less like Mississippi backwoods butt-shakers than hard-wired Texas blues-rockers.

According to the liner notes by late writer Robert Palmer (who also produced the record), Little Dave & Big Love — first released in 1995 — is representative of the club sets played by Thompson and his tight, three-piece backing group (which includes rhythm guitarist Lawrence Blackwell, drummer Anthony B. Evans and bassist Allen Hite). And several of the songs capture the feeling of a hot bar band hard at work. "Ain't It a Shame," "Hey Moma" and "Why Do You Treat Me This Way" are lean, straight-ahead blues-rock — no fat, no frills, no great surprises.

On the other hand, "After Hours Bar" (RealAudio excerpt) impresses with teasing, almost casually funky grooves. On "I'm Having It So Hard," Thompson's taut, angry fills and solos sound like involuntary commentary on the painful lines he's singing. Thompson's voice hits its marks with requisite toughness, but he speaks most eloquently through his Stratocaster, which he plays using quarters for picks.

Thompson's fiery style and precise angle of attack echo Stevie Ray Vaughan throughout the slow-burning "I Don't Care What Nobody Say." That's a shame, because to those introduced to the blues via Vaughan's callous-shredding epiphanies, Thompson's playing may incite a "been there, heard that" response. But as the audacious "Instrumental #7" confirms, Thompson's got the chops to leave the bars behind and nurture his own originality.