By Phillip Smith
It’s always exciting and somewhat fulfilling when one uncovers a new musical artist to enjoy. That’s why I am never satisfied listening to the same music over and over again. I have to keep sampling new songs and music. As I listen to new music, I categorize them as either top shelf, bottom shelf, or somewhere in-between. First Offense, a nine track album from Vince Esquire landed on one of the upper shelves in my categorization process. This album is straight up blues/rock at its finest. I can definitely see why his guitar of choice is a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature Strat. Esquire, guitar master/vocalist is joined by bassist Mark Epstein, drummer Vito Liuzzi and organist Jeff Levine on the studio recordings, and joined by bassist Shawn Michael and drummer Josh Greenbaum on an outstanding live bonus track of, B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby”.
Leading off with Etta Jame’s “Blues is my Business”, we see business is good indeed as Esquire opens the doors to his arsenal of axe-wielding skills, giving us a good taste of what’s to follow. Slick licks riding atop a Texas Blues groove make “Check Out Her Mama” a nice cover, sans the signature Johnny Winter growly vocals. Check out the guitar solo on this one.
I feel like I’m soaking in a relaxing hot tub of nice warm Blues, when Esquire breaks into Buddy Guy’s “Leave My Girl Alone”. Slow and emotional, this one is Blues to the core. Also slowly steeped in the Blues, is the heart wrenching rendition of “Tin Pan Alley”. Almost eleven minutes long, written by Bob Geddins, and also famously covered by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan, all I can say about this one is ‘Wow!’. Words can’t explain the intensity on this one. It just needs to be heard.
Esquire is no slacker when it comes to song writing either. “Better This Time” has just a little bit of a country flavor added in, reminiscent of the music of Gregg Allman. I like the texture Levine’s Hammond organ adds to it. There’s also “Freight Train”, another original about the pursuit of love. This one takes me right to Beale Street, as it has Memphis blues written all over it.
I am quite impressed with this album, and am definitely glad I gave this one a listen to.