The sound

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March 24th, 2011 |


By Michael Swanger



Vaughan remains devoted to blues, ballads and favorites

Whether it is his signature style of lyrical guitar playing, his selection of guitars, amps and musicians, his carefully slicked-back hair and stylish vintage clothes or his premier designs of classic custom cars, there is a purpose to everything Jimmie Vaughan does. Yet none of it is part of a career plan for Vaughan, who turned 60 last week and continues to pursue things that have captivated him since his youth with style and vigor.

On the day that I spoke with Vaughan via telephone from Austin, Texas, he had just mailed the final mixes of his new album to be mastered, a follow up to last year’s “Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites,” in which Vaughan covered some of his lifelong, best-loved songs by artists like Jimmy Reed, Roscoe Gordon and Charlie Rich. The second batch of 15 songs, which Vaughan hopes to release in June, includes more obscure covers of songs by artists like Jimmy Liggins, Big Sambo and the Housewreckers, Jivin’ Gene and Bobby Charles. “The albums will be like bookends,” said Vaughan. “Essentially it will be the same album cover, maybe a different color and it will be called ‘More Blues, Ballads & Favorites.’ They’re meant to go together.”

A virtual encyclopedia of blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, Vaughan said it was challenging to narrow the field of songs for the records. “There’s so many great artists and so many great songs, you could never hear it all. It’s just vast,” he said. “Most of the songs on the first record I had been listening to since I was a teenager. I was afraid to do them because I held them up so high.”

Vaughan said that he decides what songs to record while driving his pickup truck around town, singing them to himself.

“For some reason, just the position you’re in and it’s coming out of the speaker, I just like it,” he said. “If I ever build my own studio, I’m going to put in a pickup cab as the vocal booth with the steering wheel and have the microphones installed, and just get in there and sing.”

The legendary musician said that he got the idea to record the new records from a friend.

“He said, ‘If I were your manager, I’d have you record every blues song we could think of and put it in the can.’ I thought, ‘That’s a stupid idea,’ and then I got to thinking about it and thought it was pretty good. That’s what got me going on this,” said Vaughan.

The singer-guitarist recorded the albums two or three songs at a time as though he were releasing a series of singles.

“I started recording that way because it can be daunting to come up with a whole album at once,” he said. “But if you put both albums on and hit ‘shuffle’ on your CD player, they’re going to go together perfect.”

Both albums include vocal duets with fellow Austin blues legend Lou Ann Barton, who was a founding member of Vaughan’s longtime band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

“The first time I saw her sing at a bar in Dallas, she had on a really tight, sexy dress and her breasts looked like they were gonna pop out, and she was all fine looking, and she closed her set with a Little Richard medley, and I couldn’t believe it. I asked her if she would marry me and we’d start a band,” said Vaughan. “She’s just a natural singer. There’s nothing you don’t like about it when you see her in person. She’s not a fake.”

Vaughan said that he enjoys working with Barton and his band, noting that, “Things are a lot better than I could have imagined.”

“I’m playing with the greatest band a guy could have, I have a new record in the can, I just got nominated for a Grammy, I’m healthy and happy and in love with my wife and I’ve got two beautiful kids. I love it,” he said. CV

caption: Jimmie Vaughan & Tilt-A-Whirl, featuring Lou Ann Barton, plays Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. at All Play. The Bob Pace Band opens. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Visit