Ask him who his favorite blues guitarist is and he'll ask you to be more specific. "If you're talking Chicago blues, then it's got to be Buddy Guy; Irish blues, then Gary Moore." It makes sense that Chambers would be so interested in the great guitarists who came before him. Blues traditions have been passed along faithfully from one generation to the next.
Chambers' globe-spanning guitar career leaves him two degrees away from just about any blues great. He might not himself have jammed with every legend, but chances are Chambers has shared the stage with someone who has. He was a guest on the aforementioned Sumlin's final solo album, About Them Shoes, which also featured licks by Keith Richards, Levon Helm, and Eric Clapton. Chambers' fifth and most recent album, The Rock House Sessions, was produced by Reese Wynans, who played keys with Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Chambers was 15 when he first caught the blues bug. It was the early '80s; he was driving around, and his friend stuck in a cassette. The muffled, slow, 12-bar song changed his life. The teenaged Chambers felt a sensation he can describe only as "the chill bumps." He asked his 16-year-old buddy, "What is this?"
"It's 'Red House' by Jimi Hendrix. It's the blues."
He was already playing rock on his instrument. His parents bought him a guitar for Christmas when he was 11 with the caveat that he had to practice every night. But Chambers took only four 30-minute classes. "The teacher wasn't what I expected him to be. He wanted me to play 'Row row row your boat,' which didn't make me want to practice."
But a promise was a promise, and his parents made sure he stayed true to his word. "I started fiddling with the guitar, and then they couldn't stop me. I started learning to play by ear. I was playing along to classic rock. I was getting into all these Texas blues guys like Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. From there, I would learn about their heroes and influences, which led me to guys like B.B. King and T. Bone Walker."
Though Chambers was remarkably upbeat during our early-evening conversation, he's seen hardships that would give any man the blues. In 2004, his home was ravaged and flooded by a hurricane. Forced to relocate, he took his difficulties into the recording studio and created Ten Til Midnight, which struck a nerve with his biggest audience yet. The album gained wide radio airplay, earned rave reviews from the media, and landed a three-month residency on the charts of Living Blues.