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The first of D.C.’s pair of lauded but doomed hotshot guitarists, Roy Buchanan (along with Danny Gatton) was blessed with talent but cursed by self-destructive impulses. After a 1988 arrest for drunken driving, Buchanan hanged himself in his cell.
While Buchanan rarely had the band or the arrangements to match his playing, he always transcended the 12-bar blues he used as outlines for his de Kooninglike guitar scribbles.
On Malagueña, a newly released collection of outtakes, even Buchanan’s ax can’t chop through the tepid songs and production of his final recording session. But augmenting the 1988 session are six tracks from 1960s live dates, when Buchanan was tearing up Maryland and D.C. clubs and residences. It was also just before Buchanan was asked to join the Rolling Stones; he turned those hacks down flat.
The five tracks from Buchanan’s last studio date are static and stale synth blues and stand in jarring contrast to the fluidly astringent mid-’60s blues recorded in Waldorf, Md., with the Soundmasters, including Link Wray’s bassist, Shorty Horton. “I Found You,” is Beatles-style Merseybeat, “After Hours” has a Hendrixesque disregard for convention, favoring high harmonic squeals and jagged fights for the rhythm between the bass and drum battery and Buchanan’s charged guitar, and the title track is a Spanish-flavored solo blues spiced with Buchanan’s red-hot guitar licks. The late-’60s tunes, “Park Boulevard Blues” and “Chowbay,” are two-guitar drone blues, recorded with CD producer Ellwood Brown at Brown’s Marlow Heights home. The two players weave delicate improvised melodies that would not be out of place on a Spacemen 3 record.
If the live and improvised sessions were the only things on this disc it would be highly recommended. As it stands, Malagueña’s designation as “The Collector’s Edition” is apt. (It also explains the meticulous liner-note listing of Buchanan’s equipment, from his amps to his guitars to the gauge and action of his strings.)
Available from Annecillo Records, 14807 April St., Accokeek, MD 20607. $16.50 postage paid (MD residents add 75¢ sales tax). (301) 292-4350. Christopher Porter