By Mike O’Cull
Texas guitar slinger Jimmie Vaughan has long been known as one of the Zen masters of the blues. His new solo album, Baby Please Come Home hits the streets May 17th via The Last Music Co label and it finds Jimmie in top form.
Vaughan’s style isn’t about the over-the-top post-Hendrix rock energy that made his little brother Stevie a legend in the 80s. Instead, he focuses more on the grooves, tones, and feels of the pre-Jimi world. Vaughan is a pleasure to listen to in any context. On this album, he has his way with a bunch of his favorite songwriters from the roots music sphere including Lloyd Price, Jimmy Donley, Lefty Frizzell, Richard Berry, Chuck Willis, Bill Doggett, T-Bone Walker, Etta James, Fats Domino, Gatemouth Brown, and Jimmy Reed, easily bending blues and country music to his will and hosting one heck of a party we all get to attend.
Baby Please Come Home is a rolling righteous celebration of everything the blues can be and was mostly tracked at the Fire Station studio in San Marcos, Texas. It features many of Vaughan’s regular collaborators such as George Rains, Billy Pitman, Ronnie James, Mike Flanigan, Doug James, Greg Piccolo, Al Gomez, Kaz Kazanoff, T. Jarred Bonata, John Mills, and Randy Zimmerman. Guest vocalists Georgia Bramhall and Emily Gimble also add their magic to the sessions. As always, the sound is based in the 1950s styles that Vaughan has so successfully made his own but the material picked for this release spans so many different songwriters that the album stays fresh from end to end.
The record opens with the title track, Lloyd Price’s “Baby Please Come Home,” an energetic old-school jump blues that lets Vaughan’s vocals and Strat shine between horn stabs. It’s the kind of track guaranteed to raise the temperature in any room and instantly reminds us why we’ve loved Jimmie’s music for so long. His unhurried style positively drips post-war cool and the band follows his lead with the nuanced touch of true roots lifers.
Another of the record’s best moments is Vaughan’s gritty retelling of country star Lefty Frizzell’s “No One To Talk To But The Blues.” Jimmie takes Frizzell’s tale of bad luck in love out of the honkytonk and into the juke joint with a soulful touch the original can’t match. Before you know it, you’ve crossed the tracks and have no desire to go back.
Etta James’ “Be My Lovey Dovey” makes an appearance as a classic R&B-infused shuffle with call-and-response vocals that keep things motoring right along and the jazzy T-Bone Walker ballad “I’m Still In Love With You” is a nice downshift from the jumping stuff that precedes it. Vaughan’s reading of it is pretty faithful to Walker’s sound and lets the emotions in the lyrics shine through.
Jimmie Vaughan puts down some mighty blues on Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Midnight Hour” and turns the same trick on Fats Domino’s “So Glad” like a boss. Vaughan positively glows with this larger band and those who only know him from the stripped-down sound of The Fabulous Thunderbirds will enjoy the upgrade immensely.
At this point in his career, Jimmie is recording the music that makes him happy and his enthusiasm for the process is obvious. Baby Please Come Home is a fine, fun statement from one of the most important figures in Texas blues and belongs in the speakers of anyone who has ever turned on to Vaughan’s sly, subtle approach. He’s every bit the icon his brother is and watching him mature with records like this is an honor.
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