Chris Ruest belongs to the impressive class of serious Texas blues guitarists in their thirties, a group that includes Johnny Moeller, Shawn Pittman, and Nick Curran. While the others may have wider name recognition, Ruest has quietly built a reputation of excellence that is spreading beyond his Dallas home base. A veteran with nearly two decades’ experience on the bandstand, Ruest’s passion for classic blues (jump, Chicago, and Gulf Coast) and roots rock forms comes through in an original voice that combines immediacy and authenticity. Dead-on songwriting and savvy selection of covers provide a platform for his unaffected, honest vocals and tough guitar.
The Connecticut native’s interest in guitar was encouraged by his father and his uncle, jazz musician Louis Mastrobattisto. Ruest began taking lessons at 15, hoping, rather typically, to emulate blues-based rock guitarists Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page, but soon discovered the artists who inspired them. Gradually his core group of touchstone artists expanded to include the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Pee Wee Crayton, Robert Nighthawk, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Pat Hare, Eddie Taylor, Freddie King, Magic Sam, Robert Lockwood, Luther Tucker, T-Bone Walker, Albert Collins, Tiny Grimes, and many others. After playing around Connecticut between the ages of 17 and 25, Ruest resolved to make music his main priority, gave up his factory job, and relocated to Texas in 1999.
After a brief stay in Austin, where he held down a night at the storied Joe’s Generic Bar, Ruest moved to Dallas at the suggestion of Brian “Hash Brown” Calway, another transplanted Northeasterner who is at the heart of the Dallas-Ft. Worth blues scene. Ruest credits his occasional gigs with Hash Brown as important steps in his development – “He taught Johnny and Jay Moeller and Paul Size and Shawn Pittman – all those guys came through him, and Nick Curran played with him for a while, and Elliot Sowell – some of the best guys came through his band” – and gained valuable experience backing singers Robin Banks and Wanda King (Freddie King’s daughter). His most indelible lessons in blues and life came from the legendary Sam Myers: “When I got to Dallas, I spent a lot of time, like three years, with him. Before he died, I started spending more time with him. I actually did a couple gigs under my name with Sam, which was awesome.” More recently, Ruest has enjoyed the mentorship of Mr. “Linda Lu” himself, the great (and elusive) performer Ray Sharpe.
Ruest’s band has opened for Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Winter, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, and Little Charlie and the Nightcats. 2005 brought Ruest’s recording debut as a solo artist, Too Many Problems, a spirited collection that captured crisp performances in glorious, true-to-vintage sound. The notable players who appeared on that disc, including Preston Hubbard, Matt Farrell, and “Kaz” Kazanoff in addition to Curran and Hash Brown, offer testimony to the respect Ruest commands among his colleagues. Now expanding his performance schedule to a wider circuit that includesHouston, Corpus Christi, andSan Antonio, and club and festival dates outside Texas, Ruest is preparing to record a follow-up CD and to let the world share in this Dallas-Ft. Worth secret. “My goal is to play everywhere and keep playin’.”
written by tom hyslop “blues revue magazine”