Jesus himself said that no man is a prophet in his own hometown, and very often that proverb can be applied to musicians as well. Ask Jay Hooks. While the blues-rock shredder plays to audiences of hundreds and even thousands across Europe, it's mostly small clubs and sports bars once his boots hit the sizzling H-town concrete. Even his record label is Dutch.
Hooks's third record finds him still exporting his driving brand of Texas blues, one that continues to improve with each release. This hugely talented guitarist's ringing tones and dirty sound recall his heroes Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins, but Red Line betrays his equal fondness for '70s boogie rockers like Savoy Brown and Humble Pie.
The best material here -- "Last Stand," the hook-laden "Findin' My Way" and the danceable "Lowlands" -- affords him breathing room for lightning-fast fret workouts. Aided by the drumming of King's X skin thumper Jerry Gaskill and longtime bassist Maria Del Prete, Hooks's sweaty bar band is firmly grounded in its blue-collar, beer-swilling roots. It's music that doesn't just blow through stop signs -- it runs them down.
Other aspects of the package, though, don't fare so well. Hooks's limited vocal skill restricts much of his singing to flat, unemotional tones, and the lyrics rarely stray from traditional blues-rock imagery: lots of being on the road, outlaw behavior, rainstorms and coldhearted women who still give ya fever.
One could say that European audiences, in their love and appreciation for real American music played by real Americans, ignorantly make stars out of average talents. But had he never set foot on foreign soil, Jay Hooks would still be considered a top-notch axman in Houston, or any other Yank city. The only reason more people here don't go out to his shows is that we're spoiled by an excess of truly worthy talent.
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