Mack, a St. Clement's graduate, turned out to be the lucky winner of a contest, sponsored by WAAF and Guitar Center in Brookline, in which local musicians sent in a disc or tape of their own music. The winner would earn the right to jam on stage with Steve Vai.
Generally regarded as a guitar virtuoso, Vai has astounded critics and fans alike with his incredible playing style. From his days as the 19-year-old prodigy of FrankZappa, to his guitar hero status with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, Vai’s riffs have earned him legions of fans from around the world.
The Howard Street resident was one of over two dozen guitarist who submitted a disc in hopes of winning the contest. After listening to all the entries, Vai personally selected Mack’s disc ‘
"When I Think About Love," as the winner.
“It was funny, when I entered the contest the salesman said not too many people have entered because everybody’s so scared of him,” said Mack. “I said ‘What are they scared of, you’re not going to give the guy any competition.’ I wasn’t worried about that. You just get up there and do what you do, so that’s basically what I did.”
Later that evening, midway though his set, Vai called Mack out, in front of a sold out Avalon Ballroom crowd. The local guitarist then led the band through a rousing rendition of Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam,” trading licks with the guitar legend.
"It felt great,” said the 46-year old Mack. “I was surprisingly enough pretty comfortable. I’ve been playing a long time and I know in these kind of situations that you have as much fun as you can. It was a big thrill for me, but I’m sure on his agenda it was just a little bit of the show, but we had fun.”
When he’s not jamming with guitar gods, Mack can be found performing with the Joe Mack Band, playing venues such as The Blue Note Lounge and Celley’s Pub in Lynn.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well on his new CD Joe Mack flatters the hell out of some of the best to ever pick up a guitar. All originals here, but the influences are clear. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Joe Satriani, and too many more to name, come shining through on this brilliant CD from the local bluesmaster.
The flavor may come from the influences, but the cooking is all Joe Mack. And cook he does. From tracks 1 to 12 and everywhere in between, Joe Mack plays the blues with an unbridled enthusiasm and ability seldom found north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The opening guitar lick of "They Say" is like a fish hook embedding itself into the base of your skull as it slowly reels you in. The title track "When I Think About Love" with Joe's raspy vocals accentuated by the backing vocals of Teisha Sawyer and Bethany Wright. The lighthearted "I Used To Have A Brain (Then I Got Married)" with its classic line "since I became Mr. Right, everything I do is wrong." The depressing "Peace of Mind" conjuring up images of a smoke-filled, darkened blues hall, an aging man at the end of the bar sipping his bourbon, contemplating life's mistakes. The exotic "Song For Jeanne," reminiscent of Stevie Rays' "Riviera Paradise." Beautifully written and performer.
The all out jam of "Joes' Boogie". The foot stomping "Turnup Joe Zamp" (get it?) and the funky drive of "You Ain't What You Wear." "Hen House Blues" is a throwback to the way the blues used to be, while "Desperate" (I love this song) incorporates the best of everything the blues has become. "Mean Old Woman Blues" truly is as mean as a junkyard dog and the acoustic instrumental "Peppermint Stick" closes the CD with dramatic flair.
I really can't say enough about this guy's playing or this CD. If you're a fan of the blues, the electric guitar, or just plain good music pick up this CD. No collection should be without one.
Joe Mack - "When I Think About Love"
Review by Karl Russo of "Performer Magazine"
It is great to hear someone who is a master at playing the blues. Guitarist/vocalist Joe Mack does this on this powerful recording. He possesses a classic blues style characteristic of a stripped down Stevie Ray Vaughn style. Mack's tasty blues melodies bring a warm but aggressive feel to the songs on this record.
Each note he plays makes sense and he never runs out of musical ideas. This is especially evident on "Song for Jeanne." After hearing gritty blues tracks from the beginning of the disc, Mack brings a heart-felt, soothing instrumental to the song selection. With the next track, he takes another abrupt turn and offers the hard rocking instrumental, "Joe's Boogie," a rock/blues tune characteristic of Joe Satriani that almost sounds like a spin-off of "Satch Boogie." It's here that Mack shows off his technical abilities as well as some meaningful songwriting. Mack's meaty and sometimes raspy voice compliments the music perfectly.
Joe brings an element of belief to the listener even on the disc's ballads. His versatility as a guitarist and singer make this album the great work that it is.
Joe Mack Productions