EB Rating - 4.5
- Rude Mood
- Red House
- The Sad Nite Owl
- Where I Play My Blues
- The Sky is Crying
- Bad Dog
- The Thrill is Gone
- Steppin' Out
- Eric Steckel
- Bethany Guerrero
- Wayne Smith
OK, let's get the doubting Thomas's and skeptics out of the way first. Yes,
Eric Steckel was only 11 years old when this CD was recorded, and he is without
question the most talented player I've ever heard at anywhere near this age. He doesn't even look like he'd
be strong enough to get a decent bend on the strings, but this kid flat out cranks with
a level of ability that perplexes guitar player wannabe's like myself who've spent a year or two trying to
figure out what guitar playing was all about but never quite got it. The only thing that gives him away are
his vocals.... not that they're bad, but they are more typical of a what one would expect from a youngster.
Now then, having dispensed with any doubts, on to the music. This live recording rocks from
beginning to end, as Eric covers several timeless blues classics by Jimi Hendrix, SRV, Freddie King,
Elmore James, Robert Johnson, and B.B. King. Pretty tall company you might say, and you'd be right. But all
of the master's works are handled quite nicely, and all would be proud to hear Eric's renditions of their
music. There are three originals on the disc. "Jaywalkin'" is the most creative of his originals, and all
three are all well played, but for the most part don't really break any major new ground.
But hey! So the kid's not a master songwriter yet... let's cut him some slack here, he is only eleven after all.
Plenty of time to develop those skills.
While we wait for Eric's vocals and songwriting skills to mature, listening to him do covers
is quite enjoyable. The CD opens with a spirited redition of SRV's instrumental "Rude Mood", and from there breaks
into "Red House". If you're wondering if someone only eleven years old could possibly play the blues with conviction and
passion, you'll know he can by the end of this song. From there it's another instrumental, this time Freddie King's
"Hideaway". This is as good a rendition of this song as I've ever heard.
After "Crossroads" and "The Sad Nite Owl" come a couple of Eric's own songs, "Jaywalkin'" and
"Where I Play My Blues", the latter being a basic slow blues tune featuring extended, energetic romps on the guitar.
From there things quiet down a bit for a nice version of SRV's instrumental piece "Lenny", then it's back to the
classics for "The Sky is Crying", again featuring some highly passionate playing.
The three songs closing out the CD are the instrumental "Bad Dog Blues", another Steckel original,
followed by "The Thrill is Gone" and "Steppin' Out". You don't hear too many blues bands doing "The Thrill Is Gone",
perhaps because the bar is set so high on that song in terms of who recorded it and how well known it is. Young Eric
is evidently not intimidated by his idols, and while he can't hope to match the vocal capacity of Mr. King (few can),
instrumentally he does this song good justice.
I am not a student of the guitar, but I have listened nearly exclusively to guitar oriented blues
for the past 10 years or so. I cannot detect any of the tale-tale signs one might expect would give away a very young
player. All we're waiting on is for Eric's vocals to grow up. However, I have likely made too big a deal about Eric's
age. Forget his age, "A Few Degrees Warmer" is simply an excellent live blues CD featuring lots of smokin' guitar
playing by an excellent player paying homage to his mentors. I highly recommend this CD to all blues guitar fans.