Jimmie Vaughan Digs into Covers

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Jimmie Vaughan interprets songs by Lloyd Price and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown on his new album, Baby, Please Come Home.

(Photo: ©Mark Sheldon)

Jimmie Vaughan has had his share of star turns, including 11 years at the helm of the blues-rock powerhouse the Fabulous Thunderbirds and collaborating with his famous brother Stevie Ray on Family Style, released just a month after his sibling’s tragic death in 1990. Nowadays, Vaughan makes music on his own terms.

For his first new studio album in eight years, Baby, Please Come Home (Last Music Co.), the singer/guitarist drew on his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure r&b and country tunes, some of which predate his birth 68 years ago. He has stacks of original material, but opted to record only covers this time.

“There’s no real reason [for the all-covers album], except that I don’t care if I put a record out every year,” Vaughan explained by phone in April from his home in Austin, Texas, as he prepared to fly to London for three dates opening for Eric Clapton. “I don’t want to just turn out stuff, because I’m supposed to. I’m not a plumber. I don’t want it to be just a job.”

A diverse musical menu that includes blues icon T-Bone Walker’s “I’m Still In Love With You,” r&b titan Fats Domino’s “So Glad” and country icon Lefty Frizzell’s “No One To Talk To (But The Blues)” provides a suitable serving platter for Vaughan’s smorgasbord of blues, rock, r&b, country, jazz and Texas swing. “I listen to all that stuff,” he said. “It’s my world that I live in. I look to [those artists] almost every day. Their lyrics speak to me or remind me of something I went through. This is what I enjoy. There’s even some hillbilly songs that I sort of bluesed up.”

Vaughan used his touring group to record Baby, Please Come Home. With their deep-in-the-pocket groove and punchy horns, these musicians expand on the bandleader’s comfort zone onstage and in the studio.

“He has such a unique vision of what he is and what he wants to do, and he does it in a no-B.S. way,” organist Mike Flanigin said. “He wants to get to the heart of things and tell his stories. His only consideration is playing the music he wants to play and play it well, and have it consistent with his vision. People probably pitch commercial ideas to him all the time. ... But he just makes the album he wants to make.”

As a guitarist, Vaughan often is seen as the antithesis of Stevie Ray, but Flanigin doesn’t buy the theory that he eschews pyrotechnics to distinguish himself from his more famous little brother. “I think that contrast gets a little overblown,” Flanigin said. “When Jimmie is playing live, he can really rip. That comparison between the flashy Stevie and the reserved Jimmie isn’t really valid, in my opinion, because [Jimmie] can really do all that. He’s such a master, and it takes such restraint to play what you hear in your head.”

Vaughan is in for a busy year. He has a series of West Coast gigs lined up with Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite, and Clapton has booked him for the Crossroads Guitar Festival Sept. 20–21 in Dallas. “I think of Eric as a big brother that I never had, both musically and friendship-wise,” Vaughan said. “He’s helped me through a lot of tragic stuff, and he’s had his own problems.” DB