Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan: In Session…

Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan: In Session…
On December 6, 1983, blues legends Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan met at CHCH-TV studios in Hamilton, Ontario to do a live TV special. The recordings of those TV sessions became In Session…. The album was originally released in August of 1999, nine years after the death of Vaughan and seven years after the death of King. Over a decade later, the album gets a deluxe reissue including a DVD of the event.
I include the date of death for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King in the introduction to this review because it plays a vital part in understanding the importance and sadness of In Session… During in between song banter, Albert King expresses that he has been in music for a long time and it is about time for Vaughan to take over. This concert seemed like the point where King handed over the blues torch to Vaughan. Tragically, seven years after the concert Vaughan died in a helicopter crash meanwhile King outlived him two years and continued to play until his death which had to be horribly sad for him.
Despite what a passing of the torch In Session… might be, make no mistake that it is an Albert King driven concert. With the exception of “Pride and Joy”, the track listing is indicative of the set lists Albert King was touring behind at that time. The set list includes tracks like the BB King classic “Ask Me No Questions”, T-Bone Walker‘s “(Call It) Stormy Monday”, and Blind Lemon Jefferson‘s “Match Box Blues” along with Albert King’s original compositions like “Overall Junction”.
Despite the imbalance in song selection, Stevie Ray Vaughan gets plenty of face time both in guitar solos as well as during the in-between song banter. While the in-between song banter never seems enlightening, it does show an insouciant side to two of the most important blues musicians of the time. The two joke back-and-forth in a Southern gentlemen-type way that is quite endearing.
While the banter is what humanizes the performance, the music is really otherworldly. The crescendo of the concert appears to be “Blues at Sunrise”. The Albert King classic is turned into a 15+ minute jam session with the two musicians trading musical barbs in an epic guitar battle befit of a video game (Rock Band or Guitar Hero, take your pick). The track actually comes smack in the middle of the set which leaves the rest of the album feeling like it pales in comparison.
Despite the early crescendo, In Session… is one of the most unique blues documents available. It hearkens back to a time when blues was king and two of its biggest legends shared the stage to record a rite of passage for Vaughan. The unfortunate circumstances of Vaughan’s death make the album all the more poignant.
Rating: 9.2/10
MP3: Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan “Pride and Joy”
Buy: iTunes