The soul of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan hovers over this album like a guiding spirit. It's there in the presence of his longtime rhythm section--drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, who co-produced. It's there in the dedication: "He was our mentor, our friend and our brother. We miss him." It's there in the contributions of brother Jimmy Vaughan and the assembled cast of blues veterans and young guns.
Since Vaughan's untimely death in a helicopter crash in 1990, there has been a spate of compilations and reissues which serve to underscore his status as the pre-eminent blues guitarist of the '80s. More than a decade later, his influence is just as pervasive. So, Been A Long Time plays as part tribute and part celebration. The opening track, "Cry Sky," has an almost gospel fervor, featuring impassioned pleas from vocalist Malford Milligan backed by sympathetic guitar work by Charlie Sexton and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Doyle Bramhall II chips in with a funky "Say One Thing," while Susan Tedeschi, an esteemed blues guitarist in her own right, belts powerhouse lead on Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," playing Plant to Shepherd's Page.
Jimmy Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton team up for Johnny Watson's slow-burn, "In the Middle of the Night," and Vaughan's guitar can't help but recall Stevie. It's a trio setting for McKinley Morganfield's (Muddy Waters) "She's All Right," with Bramhall, Layton and Shannon. Jonny Lang lends vocals to Gordie Johnson's playful "Groundhog Day," and guitar perfectionist Eric Johnson heats up Tedeschi's "In the Garden." Dr. John adds his patented New Orleans drawl to the closing ballad "Baby, There's No One Like You," with Willie Nelson handling the guitar solo. The song fades--the disc ostensibly over--but then there's a blistering 38-second byte that sounds suspiciously like vintage live Double Trouble--as if to say that Stevie Ray is still here, which is the whole idea behind this heartfelt disc.