Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, The Sky Is Crying (Epic)

Everyone knows that rock is largely derivative. True artists go to the trouble to reinvent what they borrow (see much of the Led Zeppelin catalog, for instance). Stevie Ray Vaughan certainly had his influences, and he wore them proudly…this posthumously-released collection of studio outtakes from Vaughan sessions over the years features Stevie doing Albert King, Willie Dixon, Lonnie Mack, Howlin’ Wolf and jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. But he puts his stamp on the old. Jimi Hendrix’s version of “Little Wing” was a scant three minutes long; Stevie does it as an instrumental, and uses the solo that fades out on Jimi’s version as a jumping-off point for an extra four minutes of improvisation. Anyone that hasn’t been moved by the time he’s reached the album’s last cut, an acoustic “Life By the Drop,” will be by the bitter irony. Despite the melancholic feel of the song, Stevie Ray is almost upbeat as he wails the opening line, “Hello, death/my old friend/not so long ago it was near the end.” In the wake of Stevie Ray’s death, tears from heaven are appropriate.