Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Sky Is Crying

The Songs:

  1. Boot Hill
  2. The Sky is Crying
  3. Empty Arms
  4. Little Wing
  5. Wham
  6. May I Have a Talk with You
  7. Close to You
  8. Chitlins con Carne
  9. So Excited
  10. Life By The Drop

Personnel:

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – vocals, electric & acoustic guitars
  • Tommy Shannon – bass
  • Chris “Whipper” Layton – drums
  • Reese Wynans – keyboards

The Sky is Crying was the first of several posthumous releases by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of the most influential guitarists of the last 50 years. Released in 1991, just a year after his tragic death in a helicopter accident, it consists of outtakes selected by his brother, Jimmie Vaughan, from his last three studio recordings: Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984); Soul to Soul (1985) and In Step (1989). Although these tracks did not make the final cut for the albums from their respective recording sessions, they are in no way inferior tracks. Vaughan and his band, Double Trouble, usually recorded a surplus of material for each album and released the songs that went together best. Most of the material on the album had been in the group’s live repertoire for years.

The Sky is Crying contains two originals and eight covers. It is a portrait of Stevie Ray’s various influences and styles, with uptempo cookers, slow-burning blues ballads, a little Jimi Hendrix, and even some jazz. The album opens with the blues standard, Boot Hill. Stevie Ray recorded this song at almost every recording session he led. This last version is the first time he was recorded playing slide guitar. The title track, written by Elmore James and previously covered by Eric Clapton and Albert King, became a radio hit. One of the stand-out cuts is an instrumental version of the Jimi Hendrix classic Little Wing. Vaughan also plays tribute to his earliest idol on Lonnie Mack’s Wham, while his take on jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell’s Chitlins con Carne add a deep blues feel to the traditional organ trio original. The album closes with Stevie Ray’s recording debut on acoustic 12-string, Life by the Drop. Written by his early band mate Doyle Bramhall, it is a poignant description of the friendship between the two and role that substance abuse and addiction had played in their lives. Stevie Ray’s successful recovery from drug and alcohol addiction made his early death even more tragic and this song evoked all of that grief and pain. This song, along with the title track, became a fitting eulogy for his brief, but extraordinary career.

The Sky is Crying was heralded as one of his best albums, with several cuts included on his various “Greatest Hits” albums. Little Wing, Empty Arms, and the title track all made the Billboard Top 30. The album also won two Grammy Awards in 1992 and remains a classic blues recording. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Viewing:

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live at the El Mocambo.

Suggested Reading:

Joe Nick Patoski & Bill Crawford. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire.

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