Every note counts when Jimmie Vaughan plays
Hailed by Guitar Player Magazine as “a virtual deity, a living legend,” Jimmie Vaughan brings his Tilt-a-Whirl Band featuring vocalist Lou Ann Barton to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on April 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The former guitarist for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jimmie has pursued a successful solo career since the mid-1990s, releasing a handful of critically acclaimed albums that has cemented his reputation as an eminent blues artist.
His most recent recording, “Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites” with Barton, finds him covering lesser-known tunes by the likes of Ray Charles, Hank Williams Sr., Lloyd Price and Jimmy Reed. A follow-up to “Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites,” the album features another terrific collection of soulful blues and classic R&B.
“Jimmie Vaughan’s in his prime, so is Lou Ann Barton,” praised the Austin Chronicle. “Author of modern R&B indelibles, Vaughan’s a repository of history, with the 14 blues and ballads of ‘More’ so exquisitely fine as to appear curated rather than simply chosen.”
“I just love all those songs,” Jimmie explains. “It was pretty scary to do them because you hold them high up, and you feel you can’t do them good. But once I started, it was fun and it went real good. It’s the kind of stuff I listened to when I first started playing.”
The older brother of legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie grew up in Dallas, weaned on classic Top 40 radio, vintage blues and early rock ‘n’ roll. Picking up a guitar at 13, he also began tutoring his brother, who would later cite Jimmie as his biggest inspiration and influence throughout his own career.
“I loved it immediately, and I’ve been playing ever since,” Jimmie says. “That was in 1962.”
He played as a teenager in a couple of bands, including The Chessman, who opened for Jimi Hendrix in Dallas. Then after hearing Muddy Waters and Freddie King play his hometown, Jimmie began to delve deep into the blues.
“My uncles on both sides of the family played guitar in country bands, and country is really the same thing as blues,” he continues. “I’d listen to Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry, then I heard about Muddy Waters and Little Walter. It was a journey, and one guy would lead me to the next guy.”
The explosion of British bands adopting American blues influences like the Yardbirds, the Animals and the Rolling Stones also inspired him.
“When I started hearing Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and all those guys, it was very encouraging. I saw they were making hit records, and I thought, ‘Cool, I can do it too.’ Before that, I thought I was just like a nut.”
By the mid-1970s, he had founded The Fabulous Thunderbirds with vocalist/harpist Kim Wilson. The T-Birds became the house band at Antone’s nightclub in Austin, sharing the stage and jamming with such blues greats as Waters, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Albert King.
Jimmie went on to record nine albums with the Thunderbirds, helping inject some rocking blues into the pop charts with hits “Tuff Enough,” “Powerful Stuff” and “Wrap it Up.”
“It was great fun; we had a ball,” he says. “At first, we were playing because we loved that kind of music, not because we thought we’d be popular. We kept at it and finally got popular. And then it was time to do something different.”
Prior to leaving the group in 1990, Jimmie had joined up with brother Stevie to record “Family Style.” Then just a few weeks prior to the album’s release, Stevie died in a helicopter crash. The tragedy devastated Jimmie, who temporarily retreated from touring and recording.
Eventually, one of Jimmie’s friends, Eric Clapton, invited him to open a series of 16 historic concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall. After the warm reception for his solo debut at the Clapton shows, Jimmie in early 1993 recorded his first solo album, “Strange Pleasure,” which was nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy.
Aside from releasing his own albums, Jimmie has made guest appearances on such albums as B.B. King and Eric Clapton’s “Riding With The King,” Bob Dylan’s “Under The Red Sky,” Willie Nelson’s “Milk Cow Blues,” Carlos Santana’s “Havana Moon” and Don Henley’s “Inside Job.”
Praising the Texan musician, Clapton once reported: “The first time I heard Jimmie Vaughan, I was impressed with the raw power of his sound. His style is unique, and if I’ve learned anything from him, it’s to keep it simple.” And Buddy Guy once proclaimed: “He’s unbeatable when it comes to the blues.”
An esteemed guitarist, Jimmie is not a flashy player, preferring a more tasteful, restrained approach where every soulful note counts.
“It’s like a writer, you don’t just throw a bunch of words in a bowl,” he explains. “Playing music, I want to be expressive and play something that I would like to hear. There’s enough guys playing trick guitar, you don’t need another one.”
Opening for Jimmie will be fellow Texans Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, along with Chris Duarte.
Performing together for more than two decades, Kubek and King most recently released the all-acoustic album, “Close To The Bone.” “They are simply the best guitar tandem on the scene today,” noted Blues Revue.
Named the “Best New Talent” in a 1995 Guitar Player poll, Austin-based guitarist/singer Duarte has been compared with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Vancouver-based band The Boom Booms make their Maui debut at 7 p.m. Saturday in the McCoy Studio Theater.
This six-piece indie band performs a lively mashup of pop, hip-hop, reggae, soul and funk. Known for their environmental activism, the band has toured Europe and South America and produced a documentary on their time in Brazil. They are currently working on a follow-up to their debut album, “Hot Rum!”
Local Maui group, Chala, will open. Tickets are $20 and $15 for University of Hawaii-Maui College students with an ID (plus applicable fees). Visit www.mauiarts.org.
Ska revivalists The English Beat, led by Dave Wakeling, will play on May 10 at the MACC. A founding member of The Beat in Birmingham, England, in the early 1980s, Wakeling later performed with General Public. Their hits included “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Stand Down Margaret” and “I Confess.” For details, see www.mauiarts.org.
And here’s our final Bob Dylan fun facts list before his MACC concert April 26.
1. Strumming Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for five minutes, 1,730 guitarists in India set a world record in 2007 for the largest-ever guitar ensemble.
2. In 1996, Dylan allowed Scottish musician, Ted Christopher, to record a new verse for “Heaven’s Door,” which Christopher had written in memory of the schoolchildren and teacher killed at a massacre in Dunblane, Scotland.
3. Many folks have assumed “Rainy Day Woman,” with its chorus of “everybody must get stoned,” references smoking pot. But Dylan has emphasized: “I have never and never will write a drug song.”
4. Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson covered Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” on her “Glamoured” album. Dylan reported, “I love everything she does,” and added, “She was the only good thing on the radio.”
5. He’s also a fan of Alicia Keys. He mentions her on “Thunder on the Mountain” on his “Modern Times” album. “I remember seeing her on the Grammys,” he noted in Rolling Stone. “There’s nothing about that girl I don’t like.”
6. Brooklyn rapper Kurtis Blow got Dylan to open his song “Street Rock” in 1986. In his memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One,” Dylan wrote: “Kurtis Blow familiarized me with Ice-T, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run-D.M.C. These guys were all poets and knew what was going on.”
7. Performing the “Ballad of Hollis Brown” with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood at Live Aid in 1985, Dylan suggested the organizers might spare “one or two million” dollars from the money raised for Africa to “pay the mortgages on some of the farms” in the U.S. His comment inspired the first Farm Aid concert a few months later, which raised over $9 million for America’s family farmers.
8. Dylan released his first Christmas album, “Christmas in the Heart,” in 2009. He has donated all royalties in perpetuity to homeless charities.
9. He closed his most recent album, “Tempest,” with “Roll on John,” a tribute to John Lennon. The song was debuted in concert in late 2013 at the finale of a three-night stand in Blackpool, England.
10. Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, hailing him as a,” master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counter-culture generation.”