What can you say about Jimmie Vaughan that hasn’t already been said? A large part of the rebirth of Texas blues, the Stratocaster slinging Jimmie uses the genre like a tool that guides us from pleasure to pain and back.
Vaughan takes us back – way back to the old school blues sound with his GRAMMY-nominated album, Baby, Please Come Home. What does he know about old school blues? Well, to answer that question, one would first look at his influences. The “3 Kings” (Albert, BB & Freddie), along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson helped mold Vaughan into the player he is today. Over 5 decades in the business based in Austin, the very hub of the Texas blues wheel, and stints with his brother Stevie, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, as well as jamming with legends such as Eric Clapton, Hubert Sumlin, BB King, Bonnie Raitt and other sure didn’t hurt.
All of that and more rubbed off on Vaughan and comes across in this release. There’s no autotune, no glossy production wizardry, no shortcuts. It’s an album of the music he himself loves, with a sound that took us back to the Golden Age from a modern artist.
It all starts off with the title track. The opening of Lloyd Price’s “Baby, Please Come Home,” a’ la Vaughan is a short-bursting blizzard of guitar reminiscent of the late Dick Dale. Combining blues and surf music is surely not what Jimmie had in mind, but the music tells him what to play and being the acolyte he is, Jimmie obeys.
Vaughan’s voice is stronger than ever, and combines beautifully with the back line as well as an on-point horn section made up of Al Gomez and Jimmy Shortell (trumpet), Doug James and John Mills (baritone sax), Kaz Kazanoff and Greg Piccolo (tenor sax), and Randy Zimmerman (trombone). The horns appear throughout the album and add a Hi Rhythm House Band accent to a release that sounds like it was pressed by Chess.
Jimmy Donley, Lefty Frizell, Richard Berry, Chuck Willis, Bill Doggett, T-Bone Walker, Etta James, Fats Domino, Gatemouth Brown and Jimmy Reed are some of the other artists whose music Vaughan so lovingly shares on Baby, Please Come Home. So one can see that Jimmie has sampled the wares of blues, country, and even do-wop artists to complete this offering. The songs he has chosen are not necessarily their top hits, but they are songs from artists that touched and influenced Jimmie. Artists and music he truly likes. It’s just that simple.
“I didn’t have any fancy reasons to make this record,” Vaughan shared with us. “It seems to me the most satisfying thing to do is just to make records that you like. Lucky for me, I’ve all these players that really do it right. I pick songs that I think I can sing. I don’t get into a big philosophy about it. It’s a little like picking a pastry you like. I believe that if you really enjoy something, then it will come through and other people might get it. It’s the art. It’s kinda like you have a canvas and you have paint, so what do you want to paint? I sort of have my own Top 40, mostly artists that I remember from my childhood. I can’t imagine being in a group and playing songs that you don’t like. Been there, done that, and it wasn’t good. Now, for me, it’s all fun.”
Those players he talks about are none other than an A-list group. They include George Rains (drums); Billy Pitman (rhythm guitar); Ronnie James (bass); Mike Flanigan (Hammond organ); and T. Jarrod Bonta (piano) with Georgia Bramhall and Emily Gimble (backing vocals). When you gather all that talent at San Marcos, Texas’ Fire Station studio, magic happens. At least in this case it did.
The absolute coolest part (to us anyway) is that the music not only takes us back, but does it in such a way that we remember that sound. Even the CD sounds like it could be playing on your turntable. Close your eyes and you can feel the warmth of the recording, minus a few clicks and pops that always seem to accompany vinyl releases.
Our favorite track? Whew…toss an 11-sided die and you’d have just as much chance at picking a favorite track as we do. The killer instrumental “Hold It,” allows both Vaughan’s and Flanigan’s chops to really shine. The slow, jazzy “I’m Still in Love With You,” with Bonta tickling the ivories hit us right in the feels. Jimmie’s cover of Fats Domino’s “I’m Glad,” brings a touch of NOLA to the Texas Capital, while Charles “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Midnight Hour” is quintessential Texas blues.
Baby, Please Come Home was released on May 17 of last year via The Last Music Company. It’s current nomination for a GRAMMY Award in the Traditional Blues category thankfully brought it right back around to our radar. Don’t wait for the Recording Academy to tell you how good it is. Pick up a copy and hear for yourself. *Hint – the MP3 download has 2 bonus tracks “Silly Dilly Woman,” and the killer, Flanigan penned instrumental “Exact Change.”