Austin-based blues-rock guitarist Chris Duarte hardly ever gets a bad or lukewarm album review, but on those rare occasions he does, he lets it slide, knowing he can’t please everyone.
Though there have been few complaints about Duarte’s third album, “Love Is Greater Than Me” (released Sept. 26 on Zöe/Rounder), Duarte just had to laugh about a few he came across.
“One of the staples of critics is that they don’t see direction,” Duarte said recently. “When an album is all over the place, they generally don’t like that. They feel an artist is best suited to bring all his talent to bear in one area.
“One guy here in Austin said there wasn’t enough blues on it, and the Amazon review wasn’t really bad, but she just said I should stick to one thing. I’ve always said that if you limit yourself and not broaden your musical horizons, you’re just limiting your abilities. Music is an endless landscape. Show me what’s in you, show me what you’re made of.”
What Duarte is made of is the fiery spirit of his heroes, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a passionate mixture of rock, blues and jazz.
“I wanted to make a simple, real raw, basic album with rock grooves,” he said. “I wanted to make the songs simple; I didn’t want to layer them all, I didn’t want to use loops or anything. I wanted it to be something I could take out on the road and play with a trio, do this whole album, and we darn near did it.”
He tips his hat to producer Doyle Bramhall for capturing the group’s energy and excitement.
“Doyle is a great producer,” he said. “He has such a good knack for melodies and he’s a great songwriter. He also has a keen perspective on hooks, and he was so easygoing that he knew when to stay out of something when it was working and when to jump in and write something to push it along. He’s a musician’s producer.
“He’s a contemporary and I’m in awe of his achievements and accomplishments. He’s been there, and he’s still doing it, writing good material. It’s truly a testament to how good somebody is when they can still be kind and be in demand over decades of work.”
Duarte has been making a name for himself in Austin since moving there from his native San Antonio in 1979, when he was 16. After paying his dues on the club circuit, he finally got his big break in 1994 when he signed with Silvertone, which released his critically praised albums “Texas Sugar/Strat Magik” and 1997’s “Tailspin Headwhack.”
Ten years of solid touring, though, have taken their toll on Duarte. He’s ready to settle down with his second wife, Patricia. He owes it to her, he says, for standing by him in his darkest hours, when he battled a drug problem.
“Everything was going down the tubes, and if I didn’t get my shit together, I was going to lose everything,” he said. “And that’s what my wife did, she said, ‘If you want to destroy yourself, destroy yourself, but I’m not going to be there to watch it. If you want me to be there with you, you’ve got to pick yourself up.’ I needed somebody to finally put their foot down.
“I’ve been working so hard the past 10 years, and as soon as my wife graduates from college, getting her masters, then I’ll get more selective with my shows. I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody for my stamina, my endurance and my work ethic. I feel it’s all been done by me. I can still do it, and I am still doing it, but I’m just ready to relax with my wife and be around with her for a while.
“(Patricia) pretty much opened up my whole life and showed me what true love is. I just want to be around her more. The first time around, I was young; I thought I needed some things, but I didn’t, and music was much more in my head, but now my goals have all changed. I’d give it all up to be with my wife.”
Between tour dates, Duarte and his band will appear Dec. 21 at Warren Haynes’ 12th annual Christmas Jam in Asheville, N.C. The concert, which benefits Habitat For Humanity, will feature performances by Gregg Allman, John Popper of Blues Traveler, Bottle Rockets, Edwin McCain, Little Milton and a reunion of the original members of Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit.
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “With my own money, I went out and got the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ album. I just loved the Beatles, I was crazy about them. I thought they looked so cool standing in front of the doorway with their long hair.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Thin Lizzy and Rush in 1976 in San Antonio. Thin Lizzy opened up with ‘Jailbreak,’ and there was a huge red explosion and I thought, ‘Wow, welcome to the music biz.’ “
THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “It might have been a Beethoven CD by Herbert von Karajan. He’s a great conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic; it’s a whole set of all nine symphonies. It’s stunning.”
BWF (before we forget): More on Chris Duarte can be found on the Web @ www.chrisduarte.com. … The Chris Duarte album discography – “Texas Sugar/Strat Magik” (Silvertone, 1994); “Tailspin Headwhack” (1997); “Love Is Greater Than Me” (Zöe/Rounder, 2000).