Which Way is Texas, by Eric Stracener | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Which Way is Texas, by Eric Stracener

In 1986, I was a junior at Millsaps College and was an impressionable, if enthusiastic, blues neophyte. One night at Hal & Mal's, I saw one of the best blues shows I had ever seen—Texas blues men, led by a baby-faced slickster playing a '50s stratocaster. The singer and harmonica player was Sam Myers.

Even then, I was told, he was an old-school blues legend from here in Mississippi. The group knocked me for a loop; the band was totally crunk, the guitar player played the tastiest, most elegant and understated electric blues style I had ever seen, and Myers was, quite literally, instantly my favorite blues artist ever.

Who I saw, of course, was Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets with Sam Myers. Though Funderburgh and Myers' union was a fantastic clash and embrace of musical styles, both had long since been legends in their own right. Myers, for his part, played with an encyclopedia of blues names including Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and more. However, he was best known as a collaborator with the immortal Elmore James. Further, Myers' songs have been covered by Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and other artists.

For a period before Myers' union with Anson and The Rockets, he played in relative obscurity, based here in Jackson. Since the collaboration in 1986, the union of Myers and Funderburgh has yielded a truckload of W.C. Handy and other awards, including most recently the 2004 Handy award for Traditional Album of the Year for "Which Way is Texas" (Rounder/Bullseye).

Funderburgh is the embodiment of the blues professional. He has played and recorded with countless artists, guitar players and songwriters and, with his pompadour cool and vintage gear, he oozes classic understatement. The Washington Post recently observed, "Funderburgh, as always, seems far more interested in playing just the right note than a blistering series of obvious ones."

Blues players, and indeed musicians in general, would do well to listen to Anson and the super-tight Rockets' tasty Texas take on the blues. Like the deep grooves on the fingerboard of Funderburgh's Fender Stratocaster, The Rockets' deep sound lets you know that they have been there before.

Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets with Sam Myers will be playing many of their classic hits as well as numbers from the excellent "Which Way is Texas" at the 930 Blues Café on Friday, Jan. 7 and Saturday, Jan. 8 right here in Jackson on North Congress Street. The last time they played the 930, I was on the front row, and they were as cool and bluesy as they were in 1986. I look a lot different than I did back then, but Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets with Sam Myers are beautifully unchanged, and dead-on fantastic. Don't miss this one.

Eric Stracener is a singer/songwriter and an attorney in Jackson.

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