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Sue Foley: “Everybody who plays the blues has their own take on it”

Sue Foley
(Image credit: Scott Doubt Photography)

For the past 34 years, Texas blues guitarist Sue Foley has had one instrument by her side – at every gig and on every album. It’s the pink paisley Fender Telecaster she bought at a music store in Canada. 

From the moment she saw it, she felt drawn to it, and the second she plugged it in, she knew it was a lock. Foley promptly nicknamed the guitar “Pinky,” and throughout the decades it’s been her North Star. 

“It’s pretty precious to me,” she says. “For the longest time, I never traveled with another guitar. If a string broke on Pinky, I would stand on stage and change it on the spot. Now I’ve got two backup Teles – they’re both paisley – but Pinky’s still the main one.”

On her aptly named new album, Pinky’s Blues, Foley pays tribute to the blues and roots music she fell in love with when she relocated from her native Canada to Texas in the mid-’80s. 

The guitarist and her ace band – bassist Jon Penner, drummer Chris Layton (of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble fame) and producer-keyboardist Mike Flanigin – run through an inspired list of covers by Lone Star artists like Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lavelle White, Frankie Lee Sims, Angela Strehli and Lillie Mae Donley. 

“Sometimes you feel like you’re stepping on holy ground when you cover some of these songs,” Foley says, “but on the other hand, you’re paying homage, so you just try to do the material justice while offering your own perspective.”

The album contains three self-penned originals, most notably the luminous instrumental title track, on which she demonstrates her robust vibrato. “It’s kind of my rewrite of Earl Hooker’s Blues in D Natural,” Foley says. “Everybody who plays the blues has their own take on it.” 

Another highlight is the driving Dallas Man, a tip of the Stetson to her Texas six-string heroes, which showcases her supreme guitar work and her sultry singing to spectacular effect.

“I could have called it Dallas Men,” she jokes. “The Dallas-Fort Worth area had all of these guys – Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Frankie Lee Sims and Anson Funderburgh. There must have been something in the water.”

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Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.