BLUES ALIVE ON QIRKO DISC, by Wayne Bledsoe

Knoxville News-Sentinel - September 11, 1994

The Hector Qirko Band is Knoxville's own link to classic blues. On the band's third album, "The Blues Is a Living Thing," the band continues to distill the power of its live performances onto CD.

The band members - Qirko on guitar, Dirk Weddington on saxophone, Jim Williams on bass and Steve Brown on drums - made the wise decision to record the disc live in the studio. The result is an album that allows the listener to feel the warmth and communication between the players.

Qirko is best when he just kicks back and lets his guitar do the singing. On the slow tune "Without You" Qirko plays a coda that could've been stretched out for another minute or two. It's some of the most emotional picking that Qirko has yet recorded.

Most of the disc's highlights are instrumental. While the band stays on the money for the entire album, Weddington and Brown are particularly terrific and tight on "Time for You to Go."

Oddly, the weakest link on the disc is the completely instrumental number "Stax/Volt." While it gives Weddington a chance to take center stage, the tune is so slight that it seems like filler. The best way to enjoy it is to listen to Williams' bass work in the background, which captures more of the Stax Records feel (with Donald "Duck" Dunn-style playing) than anything else in the song.

The most pleasant surprise is the band's take on "Mercury Blues," a vintage tune recently re-cut by Alan Jackson. While Jackson barnstorms the number, in Qirko's hands the tune is an acoustic-guitar-driven vehicle that cruises like a pleasant ride on a smooth country road.

After some pretty and precise picking from Qirko, Weddington takes the wheel for some subtle sax work. Qirko's voice also seems more at home in this acoustic environment.

The climax of the disc, though, is Qirko's smoking slide-guitar solo on "Peace of Mind." In a few seconds Qirko seems to squeeze every melodious note possible out of his guitar. Johnny Winter fans need to give it a listen.

Maybe "The Blues Is a Living Thing" isn't as good as seeing the Hector Qirko Band live, but it's one heck of a fine calling card.

Copyright (c) 1994 The Knoxville News-Sentinel