photo by Reed Radcliff

If you haven’t been paying attention to his career, this is the short version of what you need to know: Chris Ruest is the real thing. The New Englander has been a resident of Texas for well over a decade. Already a serious student and lover of traditional blues and blues-oriented jazz artists, the singer-guitarist came up through Brian “Hash Brown” Calway’s band (justly regarded as the finishing school of choice for aspiring Dallas blues musicians), and has worked with many of the Lone Star State’s most important talents, including the great Ray Sharpe (“Linda Lu”).

Chris Ruest belongs to the impressive class of serious Texas blues guitarists, a group that includes Johnny Moeller, Shawn Pittman, and Nick Curran. While the others may have wider name recognition, Ruest has quietly built a reputation of excellence that is spreading beyond his Austin home base. A veteran with nearly two decades’ experience on the bandstand, Ruest’s passion for classic blues (jump, Chicago, and Gulf Coast) and roots rock forms comes through in an original voice that combines immediacy and authenticity. Dead-on songwriting and savvy selection of covers provide a platform for his unaffected, honest vocals and tough guitar.

The Connecticut native’s interest in guitar was encouraged by his father and his uncle, jazz musician Louis Mastrobattisto. Ruest began taking lessons at 15, hoping, rather typically, to emulate blues-based rock guitarists Duane AllmanEric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, but soon discovered the artists who inspired them. Gradually his core group of touchstone artists expanded to include the likes of Hubert SumlinPee Wee CraytonRobert NighthawkJohnny “Guitar” Watson, Pat Hare, Eddie TaylorFreddie KingMagic Sam, Robert LockwoodLuther TuckerT-Bone WalkerAlbert CollinsTiny Grimes, and many others. After playing around Connecticut between the ages of 17 and 25, Ruest resolved to make music his main priority, gave up his factory job, and relocated to Texas in 1999.

Ruest’s band has opened for Bobby “Blue” BlandJohnny WinterAnson Funderburgh and the Rockets, and Little Charlie and the Nightcats. 2005 brought Ruest’s recording debut as a solo artist, Too Many Problems, a spirited collection that captured crisp performances in glorious, true-to-vintage sound. The notable players who appeared on that disc, including Preston Hubbard, Matt Farrell, and “Kaz” Kazanoff in addition to Curran and Hash Brown, offer testimony to the respect Ruest commands among his colleagues. Now expanding his performance schedule to a wider circuit that includes California, Spain, Sweden, France, Costa Rica, MO, CT, Mass, RI, Tenn, HoustonCorpus Christi, and San Antonio, and club and festival dates outside Texas, Ruest recorded a follow-up CD  No 2nd Chances a 3rd release Live at Shakespeares with Ronnie James and Jd Dtullio, and has just completed 2 more albums on joint effort with piano legend Gene Taylor titled Too Late Now (available july 21 on El Toro Records Spain) and another album recorded for Enviken Records of Sweden (hopefully released by early 2018!

 “My goal is to play everywhere and keep playin’.”

Like the rest of the program, these three cds let the band work out on touchstone tunes that still sound fresh, owing to their relative scarcity in the playlists of contemporary bands, and demonstrate Ruest’s control of the essential themes of real blues guitar. His playing, sometimes deliberate, frequently savage, is always intense, carrying the threat of violence that was imminent in the approach of Curran, or Pat Hare. Paired with his outstanding rhythm section, Ruest–one of the toughest players anywhere–is on fire. Live at The Shakespeare Pub is his master class in blues history, vividly performed, and should attract a great of overdue attention.

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