The word "legend" gets tossed around pretty casually in the music biz, and that seems even more true when you start talking about blues acts or Texas-based performers. But guitar man Jimmie Vaughan truly fits the bill, if anyone does.
It's not just because he's got about 40 years of inspired playing under his belt, including stints as a teenager opening for Jimi Hendrix or many years as the musical force behind the Fabulous Thunderbirds. And he's not a legend-by-association, given overhyped respect for being the dearly departed Stevie Ray Vaughan's older brother.
No, Jimmie Vaughan earns the "legend" title every night, playing a stinging, distinct Fender and connecting the musical dots between the blues, rockabilly and roots-rock with great style. All his experience was on full display at a sold-out show Tuesday night at The State Room.
Taking the stage backed by two saxophone players -- legends in their own right Roomful of Blues alumni: founder Greg Piccolo on tenor and a fine vocal of his own, and Doug James with the baritone -- a stand-up bass, drummer and rhythm guitarist, Vaughan delivered a set heavy on tunes from his most-recent two albums, Jimmie Vaughn Plays Blues, Ballads and Favorites and the aptly named Jimmie Vaughan Plays More Blues, Ballads and Favorites. And it's safe to say that a night in SLC will never feel more like a night in Vaughan's hometown of Austin than it did during Tuesday's show.
After a lengthy instrumental to loosen up the band he's named Tilt-a-Whirl, Vaughan led his troops into a rapid-fire series of scorchers and ballads like "It's Been a Long Time,""What Makes You So Tough?" and "The Pleasure's All Mine." In song after song, Vaughan delivered killer solos, and his band's horn blasts and rhythm work was top-notch as well, as you'd expect from any group playing with a guy like Vaughan.
After 10 songs, Vaughan introduced singer Lou Ann Barton, who brought a fresh voice to the proceedings. One of Austin's finest blues vocalists for over 30 years, Barton now sings with Vaughan on the most recent albums and on tour, and her vocals made songs like "I'm in the Mood for You" and "I'm A Love You" even more potent.
Among the other highlights of Vaughan's excellent show were "Shake a Hand," "Wheel of Fortune" and "Teardrop Blues." I don't know when the last time Vaughan came through Salt Lake City was, but I'd wager it's been more than a decade. And if his shows are going to be that rare around here, I strongly suggest checking him out if you get the chance, especially if you like Texas blues and rootsy rock free of bells, whistles and b.s.