HOUSTON - She could be the next big thing on the U.S. blues rock scene in the opinion of many old-time blues musicians and rock n' roll aficionados in Texas. With her long dark hair whipping about as she prances on the stage with her guitar, Ally Venable has the stage presence of a veteran performer, but she is only 17 years old.
"You can just tell that she loves what she is doing and just radiates that from the stage," said Rock Romano, the producer of Venable's new album, "No Glass Shoes," which she recorded with her band mostly in Romano's Red Shack Recording Studio in Houston.
Romano, a talented musician and singer who has been on Houston's music scene since the 1960's, took the stage with Venable at a local venue recently and enjoyed jamming with the young guitarist.
"I told her jokingly afterwards, We need to call this band 1771, because she just turned 17, and I just turned 71!"
Somewhere in between Venable and Romano in age, Ally Venable Band guitarist Bobby Wallace says that he was about to retire from going on the road with bands, but when he met her, was inspired to continue.
"Ally is a blast to play with," he said. "We trade off different things and show each other different things, but Ally is the most comfortable person I have ever played with."
Venable has also benefited from mentors like blues singer Trudy Lynn and harmonica virtuoso Steve Krase, who played on a few tracks of her album and co-produced the recording with Romano. They both see a bright future for the teenage prodigy.
"She's young, and I just can't wait to hear her two or three years from now," Romano said.
Venable plays guitar with a skill that usually requires a lot of talent and many years of practice, but in a VOA interview, the teenager said she packed a lot of practice into a few years.
"I have been playing since I was 11 or 12, so, roughly four or five years," she said with a shy laugh.
Her inspiration mainly comes from the late singer and guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, a blues rock legend who still gets airplay on radio stations even though he died in a helicopter crash in 1990. She also models herself to some extent on Bonnie Raitt and sings one of her songs on the album, one of only two songs on the recording that she did not write herself, revealing yet another talent.
"I try to write what goes on in my life so that other people, other teenagers, can relate to it, because we all go through the same things, like troubles and struggles," she says.
She is more than comfortable on stage, becoming completely absorbed by the music.
"I really don't look at anything when I am on stage," she said. "I just get into the zone, where you just play and you don't think about anything else."
Performing on an outdoor stage a few months ago, Venable spotted a little girl with her mother swaying to the music. Having a wireless connection on her electric guitar, Venable came off the stage and had the little girl swipe at the strings.
"I love to find little kids and play for them," she explained later. "I will let them play my guitar just so they can experience that as a little kid."
She has benefited as well from encouragement, especially from her parents, who provide transportation and promotional support as well as parental guidance and protection.
As she finishes her senior year of high school in the small east Texas town of Kilgore, Ally Venable is spending many weekends playing venues around the Lone Star state and as far away as New Jersey and Florida, building an even bigger fan base.