Henry Qualls, Big Al Dupree, Charles Young and "Jr. Boy" Jones
Blues Across America — The Dallas Scene
In recent years the Texas music scene seems focused on Dallas artists like suburban-born Dallas/Fort Worth guitar slingers the Vaughan brothers and Anson Funderburgh or Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Texas transplant Pat Boyack.
Dig a little deeper and you find the roots of the music scene run pretty deep. A generation before Robert Johnson, bluesmen like Blind Lemon Jefferson played on the streets of what is fast becoming trendy Deep Ellum. In between Jefferson and the Vaughan Brothers come some of the artists Ron Levy has assembled on his new Cannonball label for Blues Across America — The Dallas Scene. The sounds include country blues, early urban sophistication and rhythm and blues.
Big Al Dupree is the highlight. Dupree’s still got it goin’, finessing his Big D take on post-war swing. Like the great Kansas City-based Jay McShann, Dupree plays mighty fine jump-boogie and swingin’ piano, and his vocals are smooth and sweet. Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones’ guitar is sharp, and the "unsung" bonus is C.B. Williams’ silky tenor sax (Williams is credited with playing on Lowell Fulson’s original hit, "Reconsider Baby").
Dupree’s career dates back to the 1930s, and he played with T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton. Originally a sax player, he hated touring and settled into playing Dallas piano bars before Dallas Blues Society founder Chuck Nevitt recorded him and encouraged him to begin gigging again. (See more on Dupree in BLUES ACCESS #25.)
Henry Qualls is probably the least known of these artists outside Texas. Backed by a band which includes familiar Dallas club player Hash Brown on rhythm guitar, Qualls sports an energetic, twangy, slightly fuzzed-up, vintage-amp guitar tone. He revs up fierce, boogiein’ grooves and shuffles with mighty enthusiasm and delivers the lyrics in an unpretentious, half-spoken, half-sung vocal style that recalls church music and front-porch jamborees.
Rounding out the disc are a collection of tunes from Charles Young and Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones. Williams is again heard on sax, and Levy stirs up the thick Hammond B-3 sound (under the pseudonym Darby Hicks Jr.). Young and Jones start their set with an on-the-money, five-song B.B. King/Little Joe Blue medley and close out with an uptown version of the classic "Big Leg Woman."
Musically and historically, Blues Across America — The Dallas Scene is an invigorating introduction to some lesser known artists working the backbone of Texas blues.
— B.J. Huchtemann