Gene Taylor Chris Ruest and Brian Fahey "Its Too Late Now"

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Over the last five decades, the piano player and singer Gene Taylor has performed or recorded with a who’s who of music legends, from Rick Nelson and Doug Sahm to Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, and The Red Devils. He has been a member of the most storied modern-day blues bands: Canned Heat, The Blasters, The James Harman Band, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. His mastery of classic blues, boogie-woogie, and rock and roll is also on full display on five titles as a leader. The veteran drummer Brian P. Fahey’s resumé includes time with Bill Haley’s Comets, William Clarke, Lynwood Slim, and Smokey Wilson. In addition to his definitive stick work with The Paladins. Fahey continues to play and record with blues artists in styles ranging from uptown swing to deep Chicago shuffles. The youngest member of the band, guitarist and singer  Chris Ruest, has been a vital part of the Texas music scene for nearly 20 years, forging close ties with Brian “Hash Brown” Calway, Ray Sharpe, and the late Nick Curran and Preston Hubbard. His three albums display a deep knowledge of real blues guitar, bulls-eye songwriting aim, and a true killer instinct.

 It’s Too Late Now was born after Taylor relocated to Austin, TX, from Belgium, and began to work with Ruest. The set covers a wide range of blues history. Taylor opens with “Crazy Mixed Up World”; powers through Blue Smitty’s “Date Bait,” another post-war Chicago classic; and turns to an earlier era with the lilting “Lost and Lonely Child.” Ruest’s witty, New Orleans-inspired “Keep Talking” features his switchblade guitar over a Professor Longhair-esque piano figure and second-line drums. Taylor plays Little Johnny Jones to Ruest’s Elmore James on “That Will Never Do,” and cuts loose on the jumping “Torpedo Boogie.” The band pushes “I Tried,” a sizzling, Texas-style rocker, into the stratosphere. Ruest’s lowdown “Mr. Policeman” comes across like a lost side from the early Sun Records days; “I’m Down” rides a nervous, country blues rhythm. Taylor submits two gospel-inflected songs: the rollicking “Too Late to Stop Now,” with its slamming backbeat, and “Slipping Away,” which ends the set on a spiritual note.  

The musicianship throughout is subtle, stinging, and superb. Fahey paces every track perfectly. Taylor’s approach to this music is second to none. On the stunning “Life Like Lightning,” he contributes perfect accompaniment and a powerful solo, while Ruest sings a catalog of woes and lays down tremendous, Muddy Waters-inspired slide. Ruest has in fact developed quite an original touch on slide guitar, whether he is riffing on Muddy, extending Tampa Red’s ideas (“Lonely Child”), adding steel guitar-style lines to the gospel numbers, providing an edgy, very vocal rhythm for “I’m Down,” or boldly approximating Little Walter’s harp on “Crazy, Mixed Up World.” Beyond his guitar playing, Ruest’s collaboration with Taylor and Fahey is remarkable. It’s Too Late Now hits all the essential points. It’s perfectly recorded, at Fort Horton (of course), and its fine, often dark, original songs actually sound original – a rare accomplishment in traditional music.                     TOM HYSLOP

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