Before The Flood – The Lost First Album (Godfatherecords G.R.853)
(76:24) The Lost First Album – Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at Jack Clemont’s Belmont Studio, early 1978 – You Can Have My Husband (Lou Ann vocal), Rude Mood, Pride And Joy (Stevie vocal), Oh Yeah (Lou Ann vocal), Love Struck Baby (Stevie vocal), Ti-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu (“Tina Nina Nu”, Lou Ann vocal), Gonna Miss Me (“Empty Arms”, Stevie vocal), I Wonder Why (“Will My Man Be Home Tonight?”, Lou Ann vocal, Stevie slide guitar), I’m Crying (“I’m Crying”, Stevie vocal), Sugar Coated Loving (“Sugar Coated Love”, Lou Ann vocal)
Bonus Tracks – Live at Stubb’s Barbecue, Lubbock, Texas December 1978 – Guitar Hurricane, Tin Pan Alley, Tell Me, I’ll Change, Call On Me, Hip Shake Baby, Woke Up This Mornin’, I’ve Tried Pretty Baby, Rude Mood
In 1978, about five years before Stevie Ray Vaughan would record his debut LP, Texas Flood, an early version of Double Trouble featuring Jack Newhouse on bass, Chris Layton on drums and singer Lou Ann Barton went into Jack Clemont’s Belmont Studio in Nashville, Tennessee and cut what we now refer to as SRV’s “Lost First Album”. Whether or not the band was unhappy with the way the recording came out or an actual contractual dispute prevented the record from being released is irrelevant as either way it went years without surfacing.
The sound quality for the studio sessions differs slightly from song to song but is overall excellent. The highlights from The Lost First Album are definitely the tracks that Stevie reworked for his major label debut, Texas Flood, although his playing throughout is stellar. Being able to hear the early versions of “Rude Mood”, “Pride And Joy”, “Love Struck Baby” and “Empty Arms” (titled “Gonna Miss Me” here) is priceless and it is obvious that the level of talent was already present in his playing just waiting to be discovered.
Chris Layton and Jackie Newhouse lay down a nice solid foundation for Stevie and while Lou Ann Barton is an excellent singer in her own right, the kind of blues that Vaughan played benefited more from his unpolished bluesy vocal style. Stevie’s slide guitar featured in “I Wonder Why” is also a highlight. He has a real raw approach no doubt influenced by the blues legends he idolized. Lou Ann’s vocal performance in “Sugar Coated Loving” is also worth noting.
Godfather fill out the remainder of the disc with nine tracks recorded live at Stubb’s Barbecue in Lubbock, Texas in December 1978. These tracks come from a very good to excellent soundboard tape that is a perfect companion to the studio material. Stevie is joined by Lou Ann Barton on vocals for a few of the tracks with Jack Newhouse on bass, Johnny Reno on sax, and an unknown drummer. The saxophone does a nice job complimenting Vaughan’s playing and it’s nice to hear an additional lead instrument to help fill out the sound of the band. Lou Ann’s vocal style also fares better during the live performance than it does on the studio sessions.
These types of small club gigs work great for blues music. With a nice loose atmosphere the band can even be heard ordering drinks before “I’ll Change”. Lou Ann makes her first appearance during this one and sings a nice slow blues while Stevie shows off some impressive fast picking during the solo. “Hip Shake Baby” is definitely one of my favorites and has a nice sleazy groove and is what you would expect to hear if Hendrix jammed with ZZ Top. A really nice vibe with of course some extended solos from Vaughan and Reno. Even though this show is only played in front of a limited number of people, their reaction to the music proves that this is one performance that would leave a lasting impression on them.
Before The Flood is packaged in Godfathers tri-fold cardboard sleeve with some early photos of Stevie. The excellent packaging paired with two very nice sounding (and hard to find on silver) documents makes this an essential title to own not only for SRV collectors but also for blues fans in general. With the constant re-releasing of material from the major labels, adding bonus tracks, deluxe editions and even box sets, I would think it would be only a matter of time before someone procured the rights to try and release the Belmont Studio sessions.