A couple of weeks ago marked the anniversary of the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash. But in the nearly three decades since, the Texas blues legend has continued to inspire musicians—including those not yet even born for nearly another decade after that tragic event.
That category would include 19-year-old Ally Venable. The scorching blues singer/guitarist recently released her second album, Puppet Show, on the Houston-based Connor Ray Music label. And the road she’s on now goes straight back to SRV himself.
“When I was learning to play the guitar, I liked country and pop a lot, and especially Miranda Lambert a lot because she’s from Texas like I am,” says the Kilgore born-and-raised Venable, still a resident of that city.
“Then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan, just some of his popular stuff like ‘Pride and Joy’ and ‘Texas Flood.’ And I just really loved that sound, and I wanted to see if I could do that, that Texas guitar slinging thing. Stevie introduced a lot of people to the blues. And that’s’ my goal with my music—to get people who don’t really know the blues to love it like I do. Blues is in rock and pop and country and R&B and funk. That feeling and passion is all there, and I think that’s why I connect with it.”
On Puppet Show, Venable’s writing and playing has definitely evolved from her 2016 debut No Glass Shoes, with many of her songs about interpersonal relationships (often the down side of them) and overcoming challenges.
“When I write songs, I try to write about what goes on in my life or people can relate to. I’m only 19, I know, but we all go through some of the same things and have the same struggles,” she says. “My message is about not letting anything get in the way of you pursuing your dreams. You can overcome obstacles and reach your goals.”
Venable’s regular band includes Elijah Owings (drums) and Bobby Wallace (bass). On the new record, there’s guest appearances by other well-known Texas blues names like guitarists Lance Lopez and Gary Hoey, keyboardist Eric Steckel, and harmonica player (and owner/labelmate at Connor Ray Music) Steve Krase. It was engineered by longtime local soundman Rock Romano. Venable says that Lopez in particular has been a mentor to her.
Of course, it won’t be long before Venable won’t be able to be called a “teen” blues-rock sensation anymore, but that’s OK with her. “I think it’s cool that people recognize how young I am, but I think the downfall is that I don’t get taken seriously yet,” she says. “I work very hard and I know I have to keep working hard to get that. But I enjoy being young, because it just gives me so much time ahead to work on my craft.”
Venable is also active in a music scene where many things have been upended from the time of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Mainly—and it seems especially to be the case with contemporary blues artists—the tour now supports the record rather than the record supporting the tour.
“I love when people come out to the shows and hear the songs for the first time then want to know which CD it’s on so they can get it there,” Venable offers. “And that’s the atmosphere. You want to go out, hear the music, and if it [moves] you, buy it right there. It’s very cool when someone buys a CD right in front of me!”
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Her current run of dates (including Houston) has several shows with her opening for Austin’s The Peterson Brothers, a hot blues duo in her same age range. “I’m really excited to play some shows with them. They are amazing and really good friends. And I love their family. They are fantastic.”
After that, there’s something on the table that Venable says she can’t talk about yet, but she’ll continue writing. And, still early in her career, she plans to “always” be on the road. “My favorite thing about being a musician is playing live,” she sums up. “Different areas, festivals, and venues all have their own different vibe. And I definitely feed off what the audience does.”
The Ally Venable band plays 8:30 p.m., September 14 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. For more information, call 713-529-9899 or visit ContinentalClub.com. $15.
For more in the Ally Venable Band, visit AllyVenableBand.com