Blues-ing The Night Away

REVIEW: Texas-based guitarist Van Wilks ushers return of live music before a sold out audience at Bosque Art Center’s ‘Burgers & Blues’ with mix of nostalgia & humor

CLIFTON – Internationally acclaimed blues guitarist and Texas Music Hall of Famer Van Wilks brought his enormous talents and storied music history to a sold out crowd June 26 during the Bosque Arts Center’s “Burgers & Blues” concert. 

The two-hour set marked a welcomed return for live music fans locally following a dry spell for the arts during COVID-19  restrictions over the past 15-months. Wilks' versatile mix of blues and rock’n’roll delighted the capacity crowd who erupted in applause throughout the evening and brought Wilks back for an encore following a rousing ovation from the audience.

The Galveston native, who has made his home in Austin’s rich music scene since the early 70s, entertained the crowd between numbers while reminiscing about his past with a mixture of nostalgia and humor. His music book was filed with both familiar classics from varied genres and included traditional blues to classic rock from Jimi Hendrix and Van Morrison to The Beatles. 

Wilks was accompanied by longtime guitarist Josh Smith, who performed two original solos.  An added bonus for the crowd happened when Wilks inviting 13-year-old musician Julian DeKock onstage to perform alongside him on guitar, and bringing him back during his rollicking finale with the teen sharing string duties on Wilks' renowned guitar.

Wilks was making his second trip to Clifton following his first sold-out concert, “Burgers & Blues,” in 2019.  His return was cancelled twice in 2020 when the Bosque Arts Center was shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wilks said he enjoyed seeing an audience hugging again.

Wilks was welcomed to the stage by Bosque Civic Music Association President Donna Jarman.  The BCMA served as sponsors for the evening, which included grilled hamburgers and was billed as “Burgers and Blues II.”   

A member of the Texas Music Hall of Fame, Wilks began playing guitar as a youth in the 1960s.  H was signed by Mercury Records in 1979 and released his first record in 1980. He’s recorded six solo albums, one live album, and played around the globe with some of rock’s most revered acts. His talents and career have garnered him a multitude of awards and honors. 

Wilks has released seven albums and his work is synonymous with Texas Blues Rock. He has played before five US Presidents and performed and has accompanied the likes of Lyle Lovett, ZZ Top, Peter Frampton, Heart, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Leon Russell, Christopher Cross, and Journey, to name a few. 

Austin music fans voted Wilks Best Electric Guitarist and Best Acoustic Guitarist in the Austin Chronicle Music Poll as well as Best Rock Band four years in a row. 

"His work consists of finely crafted songs, both acoustic and electric, that combine low down, juke joint blues with a melodic pop sensibility, edgy word play and blistering guitar, and fiery fretwork," Jarman said. “The sum of all these parts is unmistakably Van Wilks."

Up next for the BCMA is a week-long children’s music camp production of the Disney classic, “101 Dalmations.” The camp will be held July 19-23 and applications are still being accepted. Please contact the BAC for more information at (254) 675-3724 or visit their website at bosqueartscenter.org.

Photos by BRYAN DAVIS

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