in performance: jimmie vaughan

Jimmie Vaughan.

“I’m still a kid having fun,” remarked Jimmie Vaughan near the end of an eight-song set Monday evening for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. Judging by his easygoing stage demeanor, an efficient and very flexible use of a seven member band and an intuitive performance sensibility that had him playing for the sake of the set’s champion blues-reared tunes over his own instrumental chops, the Texas guitarist, 68, made good on his words. In short, Vaughan very much appeared to having a blast.

Though long viewed exclusively as a Lone Star blues stylist, Vaughan regularly took offramps away from Texas and, for that matter, away from the blues. Louisiana, in fact, figured just as prominently, whether it was through the percussive Crescent City makeover given to a merry sing-a-long version of the Bruce Chanel staple “Hey! Baby,” the bayou ramble that undercut Huey P. Meaux ‘s “Just a Game” or the giddy  rumble of  “So Glad,” a chestnut penned by two champion New Orleans stylists – Dave Bartholomew (who died last week at the age of 100) and Fats Domino.

Similarly, jazz regularly saddled up alongside Vaughan’s blues urges. Slide Hampton’s “Frame for the Blues” became one of the evening’s few instances where the guitarist strayed from playing alongside a melody line in favor of an extended solo full of electric jabs that served as a tasty contrast to the band’s sleeker rhythmic support. Then on the evening-closing “Hold It,” the two styles seemed fully harmonious. It was blues in terms of expression but very much jazz in execution.

Aiding in this exploration was a troupe of instrumentalists that essentially served as two bands in one to exhibit works pulled almost exclusively from Vaughan’s two newest albums. The full seven-man roster, bolstered by a two-member horn team, was used to full effect on five tunes from 2019’s “Baby, Please Come Home,” especially the Lloyd Price penned title piece that embraced an expansive, elemental ensemble groove. But for two songs off of 2017’s “Live at C-Boy’s,” Vaughan scaled the group down to an organ/drums/guitar trio that brought B3 ace Mike Flanigan’s chilled, churchy playing to the forefront.

There was also a substantial surprise slipped into the repertoire of recently recorded covers. It was a darkly meditative and seemingly impromptu reading of “Six Strings Down,” which Vaughan wrote 25 years ago as a remembrance of his celebrated younger brother, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Played as a thumb picking eulogy on solo Stratocaster, the song was a subtle but solemn reality check, a sobering contrast to the evening’s more outward jubilance.

“Lord, they called another blues-stringer back home,” Vaughan said. “For all the evening’s stylistic thrillseeking, this was the moment where the blues truly hit home.

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