Feelin’ Good Records
16 songs – 65 minutes
It does not take a genius to identify Robert Sullivan’s home state by his stage name of Texas Slim. Equally, it only takes one listen to his new CD, That’s Who I Am, to have a pretty fair idea where he comes from.
Roaring out of the speakers with the upbeat “Sweet Tooth Blues”, it is immediately obvious that this is an album of high energy, guitar-driven blues as Slim declares his love for his lady at the same time as he sings of his love for unhealthy food. “Bring me a strawberry shortcake, and a double banana split. Bring yourself and two spoons, I may let you have some of it. Well, I love your deserts, but you’re the sweet I want the most. I got a sweet tooth for you, baby.” One can only assume that his lady keeps him slim by working the calories off him at night.
Featuring 16 songs (all written by Slim himself, except for the sole cover of Frank Frost’s “Jelly Roll King”), That’s Who I Am features a wide variety of modern blues styles, from the funky, Albert Collins-esque “Every Time I Go To Houston” and the swing of “Lazy Girl” to the slow minor key blues of “Coyote Moon Blues”. It includes three instrumentals: the Freddie King-influenced “Rock Hauler”; “Attack Of The Mosquitoes”, which has a hint of Dick Dale’s version of “Miserlou”; and “Lightning Boogie” which recalls some of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s wilder instrumentals. Texas Slim may not be saying anything new on this release, but what he says is energetic, exciting and just downright fun.
That’s Who I Am is Slim’s fifth solo album, although he has also appeared on two albums by Wanda King as well as the “Blues Explosion” guitar summit CD with Vivian Vance Kelley and Andy Just in 2011. He is both a fine, expressive singer and an unreserved guitar slinger, drawing a warm, fat Les Paul tone from his guitar. He can also pen good songs. He is ably supported by Kenny Stern (Slim’s drummer for 31 years) and Bill Cornish on bass (something of a newcomer, having only played with Slim for the last 20 years). Cornish and Stern are a rock solid rhythm section, who nail down a driving groove whilst still offering subtle rhythmic variations that keep the songs interesting. Stern’s alternating drum rhythms on “Rock Hauler” in particular add fresh layers to the song.
Brian “Hash Brown” Calway adds harmonica to the relaxed shuffle of “Have A Coffee With Me” and “Jelly Roll King”, but this record is primarily the sound of a trio recorded almost live (eight of the songs have no overdubs at all) and Paul Osborn and Texas Slim deserve credit for capturing on CD the energy of what is clearly a first class roadhouse band.
Robert Sullivan was apparently given the nickname “Texas Slim” in 1982 by the late, eccentric piano legend, Alex Moore, himself a native of the Lone Star State. It is a fitting nom de stage. Slim wears his Texan influences on his sleeve, but he also wears them lightly. The most obvious role model is probably Johnny Winter, although Slim takes a more melodic approach to his solos, which suggests he has absorbed a lot of Freddie King as well. “Love Somebody” could have appeared on an early ZZ Top album, and “Lightning Boogie” is a loving nod to both Lightnin’ Hopkins and SRV.
Recorded in Dallas, Texas, in October 2013 at Audio Dallas, That’s Who I Am features very impressive packaging with a gatefold CD and is a highly enjoyable album of guitar-driven modern electric blues.