Jimmie Vaughan: The Jimmie Vaughan Story
CD | LP
As the great Texan blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan reaches another milestone birthday, The Jimmie Vaughan Story is a limited edition box-set which provides a fitting tribute to a magnificent talent who has been recording since the mid-1960’s and influenced so many throughout his star-studded career. Ian Corbridge reflects for Louder Than War on a blues journey which has encompassed such a great divergence of musical styles and which still continues to this day.
I was already a big fan of the blues in the early 80’s but for some reason I cannot remember how I found my way to hearing The Fabulous Thunderbirds for the first time. Maybe it was the dulcet tones of the incomparable John Peel who first directed me to these fine exponents of blues rock, but I cannot say for sure. However I found them, it was the beginning of my long and wonderful musical relationship with the mighty talents of the Texan blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.
The first two albums by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Girls Go Wild and What’s The Word?, provided a soundtrack to many hours of great listening, sitting very easily at that time amongst my other passions for the likes of Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Johnny Thunders, Dylan and the Stones. And there was little doubt that much of the attraction was not only the vocal and harmonica talents of singer Kim Wilson, but significantly the unique guitar style and sound of Jimmie Vaughan who could play the blues with a swing in a way I had never heard before.
My first live experience of Jimmie with The Fabulous Thunderbirds was in Sheffield in March 1983 and it was a night that lives long in the memory. What stood out above all else was Jimmie’s ability to play the blues with a real groove and sense of swing whilst always having respect to the roots of the music. Mixing wild abandon with a deep-seated soul, Jimmie could take the band in any direction and you never knew what was coming next.
In that live environment, with songs like The Crawl, Sugar-Coated Love and You’re Humbuggin’ Me, I have to admit that I found myself performing dance movements and hand gestures that sat well outside my comfort zone and which I have almost certainly never repeated since. But Jimmie led the line with such class that this mesmeric fusion of blues, rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues transported me to new and unchartered levels of enjoyment which I clearly shared with the rest of the audience that night.
The fact that Jimmie Vaughan attained the youthful milestone of 70 years of age in March 2021 came as something of shock, but it was that spark that ignited the compilation of this magnificent tribute to a great blues musician so we must be thankful for that. Curated by The Last Music Co.’s guiding light Malcolm Mills, this 5 CD set comprises 96 songs, of which 26 are previously unreleased, and over 6 hours of music, both live and in the studio. It also includes significant liner notes and artwork. A further deluxe boxset includes even more extras including various vinyl releases.
It is inevitable that the first 41 songs which take up much of the first two discs are by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, all of which demonstrate exactly why they spearheaded a blues revival during the mid-80s whilst at the same time popularising roadhouse Texas blues. With songs ranging from the heavy blues of She’s Tuff, through the strong groove of How Do You Spell Love, the rock’n’roll swing of My Babe and the soulful blues of I Can’t Quit You Baby, Jimmie’s signature guitar is at the forefront throughout.
It is undoubtedly Jimmie’s talent and style which shines through these recordings that prompted so many subsequent collaborations with other hugely talented artists. Some of the more notable collaborations here include Cold, Cold Feeling with Albert Collins, You’re Sweet with Jimmy Rodgers, the infectious boogie of He’s Got A Key with Bo Diddley and a rockin’ version of Boom Boom with John Lee Hooker. And, of course, there are collaborations with his brother Stevie Ray Vaughan, who so tragically lost his life in a helicopter crash in 1990, with whom he recorded the Family Style album in 1990 under the name of The Vaughan Brothers.
Disc three includes some particularly stand out tracks. Take Your Time Son is a mesmerising Elmore James style blues jam with Doyle Bramhall. The influence of BB King on Jimmie’s guy styling shines through strongly on Cool Lookin’ Woman and his prowess as an all round blues virtuoso both on guitar and vocals is clearly evident on Dengue Woman Blues, which has more than a nod to the likes of Buddy Guy. And then there are the epic live blues jams of Six Strings Down and SRV Shuffle where Jimmie shares the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, B.B King, Buddy Guy and Dr John – wow!
The collection then moves on to cover Jimmie’s extensive solo catalogue with songs which showcase his ever diverging style including classic blues, rock’n’roll, soul and even a bit of good old delta blues with I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Other highlights include You Upset My Mind with the Jimmy Reed Highway alongside Kim Wilson and Gary Clark Jr., a very soulful What Am I Living For? with Lou Ann Barton, That’s What Love Will Make You Do with the great Little Milton and a bit of guitar duelling with Bonnie Raitt on The Pleasure’s All Mine.
The final disc gives us a rare glimpse of the embryonic guitar styling that was to make such an impact in the world of blues in the years that were to follow, through some recordings with his band Storm who preceded his time with the Thunderbirds. Also through Lightnin’ Boogie, Jimmie pays tribute to and demonstrates the unique guitar style of the legendary Lightnin’ Hopkins as he makes the point that without Hopkins there may never have been a BB King, Buddy Guy or even Jimi Hendrix. Closing song Baby, Please Come Home is pure blues with a swing and a swagger in typical Jimmie Vaughan style.
The Jimmie Vaughan Story proves to be a fitting tribute to one of the greatest blues guitarists to emerge from Texas, or indeed anywhere. With over six hours of music and much more besides, it’s a collection of songs which has been curated with great care to showcase what a unique talent Jimmie has been throughout his career, developing an exciting divergence of styles whilst always retaining blues as the cornerstone of his music. Fortunately, Jimmie Vaughan remains a strong creative force in the world of blues and rock’n’roll today and that is something most definitely to celebrate through this release. And long may that continue.
You can buy the box-set here.
All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.