Steve Lott Serves Up a Spicy Solo Debut
Though bluesman Steve Lott is a native Texan, West Texas Refugee was produced while he resided in Australia. As a so-called Refugee singer/songwriter/guitarist, Lott championed his high-octane blend of Texas-style rhythm and blues. He has since returned home, but remains a popular draw at blues festivals on both continents.
Steve Lott's professional music career started in Austin with notable bands D.K. Little's Power Play and The Lotions. He studied briefly under blues giants Freddy King and Roy Buchanan. After successful tours of New Zealand and Australia in the mid-1990s, Lott moved there permanently. He formed the power-blues trio House of Fire with Australians Paul Cheeseman and Don Lebler. Additional musicians were brought in for the recording of West Texas Refugee, which in 1998 led to Australian Blues Awards "Male Artist of the Year" and "Newcomer of the Year."
West Texas Refugee is a stellar start for Lott. It bears the strengths and weaknesses typical of new blues: great guitar tones, good instrumentation, hooky intros, turn-arounds, and guitar solos, but somewhat stilted lyrics and predictable songwriting structures. If you like the music of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roy Buchanan, Scotty Moore and so on, then you'll hardly consider these criticisms condemning. Lott's expert musicianship makes his fast runs preferable to ballads, but he can prove emotionally compelling at any tempo.
Song highlights include "Dance Thang" a blazin' jump blues, "All the Love (I Miss Lovin')" a Chicago standard with jazz-tinged solos, and "Strollin' With Bones" a T-Bone Walker instrumental complete with horn arrangements. In fact, blues music has always been about musical expression, more concerned with the way a song is played than the song itself. West Texas Refugee is peppered with such moments.
Steve Lott is an excellent guitarist in his own right. As a band leader, he knows to take full artistic advantage of his musicians. His standard rhythm section is supplemented by Hammond organ and Leslie speaker, dobro, mandolin, horns, and plenty of guitar doubling. The recording quality of West Texas Refugee is first-rate. Tube-driven guitars peg the meters without clipping, the bass is deep and resonant, and the drum attacks are clearly annunciated.
Steve Lott is quickly becoming a name synonymous with Texas Blues. Check out this representative debut, his 2000 follow-up If Looks Could Kill, or better yet catch him live for the full effect.
-David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.