There’s something about Texas. Open up the history books and you’ll find the Lone Star State at the eye of every rock ‘n’ roll storm. Pull up a stool in any bar-room and you’ll still hear Southern gentlemen spin stories of ZZ Top, Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Now, tip a ten-gallon hat to the bandleader writing her own name onto the state’s famed back pages, as Ally Venable releases breakout third album, Texas Honey – with production from another local hero. “Ally is the future of the blues and the crossover music of American roots-rock,” nods Mike Zito. “She is Texas Honey.”
She might only be hitting her twenties, but long-term fans will know this isn’t Ally’s first rodeo. Rewind to her childhood in the post-millennium and this rising star found her voice in church, but it was the influence of fiery Texas guitar-slingers like SRV and the melodic smarts of Miranda Lambert that showed her the path. “What’s cool about Stevie is that he introduced so many people that didn’t know about blues to this music,” she reflects. “And that’s what my goal is to do with my music.”
With her soulful vocal, burn-it-down fretwork and heart-on-sleeve songcraft, Texas was hers for the taking. Detonating venues across the South and holding their own as support for titans like Lance Lopez and Eric Gales, Ally’s lineup of Bobby Wallace (bass) and Elijah Owings (drums) proved a power-trio to rank alongside the best. “I take in that Texas guitar-slinging influence in my shows and songwriting,” she explains. “My band is a three-piece, so it’s a ‘right-in-your-face’ power-trio.”
That live punch was captured on No Glass Shoes (2016) and Puppet Show (2018): the latter dubbed “exceptional” by Blues Rock Review as it scaled the Top 10 on both Billboard and iTunes Blues Charts. Meanwhile, the ETX Awards mounted up in categories including ‘Best Female Guitarist’, ‘Blues Band’ and ‘Album of the Year’.
But it’s all been leading to Texas Honey. Released alongside her appearance on the 2019 Blues Caravan, Ally’s Ruf Records debut went down at MARZ Studios in Nederland, Texas, where producer Mike turned the killer songs in her back pocket into the album of her career. “On this album,” Ally reflects, “it’s still guitar-oriented, but I focused more on the songwriting, the hooks and melodies. I try and write about what goes on in my life, or something that I feel can relate to others. I want my songs to be a release for people, something they can play and enjoy.”
Expect some sweetness – and plenty of sting. Opener Long Way Home sets the pace, fusing a twanged riff, white-hot solo and anthemic chorus. One-Sided Misunderstanding pairs a reflective verse with an overdriven chorus, before Running After You offers a bad-tempered buzzsaw riff and a lyric that tells it straight (“If you want to leave then go/But just know I’m not running after you”).
Broken has a gritty verse that builds to a knockout chorus, while Blind To Bad Love is a moody half-time strut that finds Ally caught under the spell of a bad lover (“I’ve tried everything to get you out of my head”). The title track serves up a growling riff and a solo that races the length of the fretboard, while White Flag is positively vicious, with a distorted vocal, scything licks and sneered solo. Nowhere To Hide has an irresistible pulsing groove, while Come And Take It welcomes Eric Gales to the studio, the pair trading vocals over stormy guitars. "What can I say?” muses the guest-star. “It was a huge honour and privilege to be a part of Ally's new record coming out. I’m sure all will love what they hear. I sure know I do. Boom!”
Finally, on an album of all-original material, Ally tips her hat to the greats with a grooving cover of Careless Love Blues and a love-letter to SRV on a mojo-packed Love Struck Baby. It’s the cherry atop the first great breakout record of 2019 – from a Texas legend-in-waiting with everything coming her way. “I’m very grateful,” reflects Ally, “for all the cool things that have happened, are happening – and will happen…”