The love between an artist and that performer's guitar runs deep. B.B. King had Lucille, Willie Nelson has Trigger and for blues artist Sue Foley it’s her pink Fender Telecaster, Pinky. Sue Foley will be celebrating her album release for Pinky’s Blues right here in Houston on Friday, October 22 at Rockefeller's.
One lucky ticket holder will even take home a black and white print of Foley and her good pal and Texas treasure Billy F. Gibbons performing at their first ever Jungle Show, their yearly holiday performance held at Antone’s in Austin.
“I’m thrilled and we love Houston,” says Foley from her home in Austin. The album will be released that same day and when asked why Houston got to host her official album release show Foley says, “It just kind of fell into place. We were picking the date for the release and this Houston date fell right into line with that and it was perfect.”
Rockefeller's has historically been a home for Houston blues and once was a frequented spot for Texas blues players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie, a collaborator on the track “Hurricane Girl.”
Foley herself remembers playing there for a solo gig opening up for Leon Russel many years ago. “What a great place to release our album,” says Foley.
As for her guitar: “She’s got a whole album dedicated to her,” says Foley who credits producer Mike Flanigin for coming up with the concept and album title. “I’ve had this guitar for over 30 years so she's pretty special, it's about time we gave her an album.
“I got her in Vancouver at a music store and she's been with me this whole time,” says Foley, who is from Canada and made her way to Austin at 21 to form part of the Antone’s blues family. “It’s crazy I never lost her. Well I have lost her a few times on airplanes but she always came back."
She recounts moving to Austin and meeting Clifford Atone who picked her up at the airport and let her stay at his house for almost a year.
“I showed him my guitar, it was Pinky and I had only had her for a year or two at that point, and he said, ‘Oh you know the more you play it, the more soul will go into it.’ and that just sums it up for me because if you play one guitar at every show, at every recording, it travels with you and it's been by your side, there's a soul thing there for sure.”
“That's exactly what it’s about,” she agrees. “The transference of energy, passing it forward, receiving it and giving it.”
Pinky’s Blues was recorded with this in concept in mind with Foley describing it as having a “regional sound” where the selected covers are songs by Texas artists and her original tracks on the album carry that same tough Texas vibe like her original track “Dallas Man.”
During the pandemic, Foley and Flanigin hosted a virtual Texas Blues Party where they would delve into various blues artists, telling the backstories, explaining the styles and of course, playing the songs with Foley on guitar and Flanigin holding it down on the B3.
Foley credits the focus and vibe of Pinky’s Blues to those same Texas Blues parties they hosted online, renewing her dedication to studying specific styles of playing in combination with the fast paced and live recording process of Flanigin’s pandemic release, West Texas Blues, which she played on.
“We went into Pinky’s Blues sessions with the same spirit,” explains Foley. “Knowing that we could do it because his album was great.”
Flanigin not only served as producer but can also be heard on the album including the red hot “Southern Men.” “We are very simpatico,” says Foley.
“He produced it and sort of oversaw the sessions. The sessions were done live and when I say live I mean like live off the floor,” she says describing how they all played in one room with no over dubbing or going back in to fix something even if they had wanted to.
“You might hear a little minor glitch but we chose to leave those in there because it definitely puts it all out on the line and you kind of gotta go for it. I was really happy with the results.”
Throughout the album there is a funny play on words and gender with titles referring to both genders and Foley herself doing a cheeky dance between masculinity in her lip curling, growling playing style and the femininity and sensuality of her voice.
“When people see me play guitar they definitely are caught off guard because it's not what someone would call feminine right. It’s funny that we even attribute those things to it but it does have that thing. I guess it’s aggressive.”
Sue Foley will perform with John Egan on Friday, October 22 at Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington, doors at 7 p.m., $18-32.