Album review: Jimmie Vaughan, 'Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites'

3 stars (out of 4)

Jimmie Vaughan’s late, younger brother Stevie Ray Vaughan cut a wide swath with his expansive style and blues-drenched attack. Jimmie Vaughan, in contrast, is all about taut, wiry economy. Virtually everything he's recorded has been informed by restraint and a wide-ranging taste in blues, R&B and early country.

“Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites” (Shout Factory) is the quick follow-up to last year's fine "Blues, Ballads & Favorites." Like its predecessor, it focuses on relatively obscure decades-old tracks associated with artists  ranging from Jivin’ Gene and Annie Laurie to Ray Charles and Hank Williams Sr.

Vaughan invests them with renewed vitality, leading a hard-charging combo through live-in-the-studio takes that swing rather than smash. The drums slide just behind the beat, horns dart and dash, and Vaughan chooses his spots like the seasoned guitarist he is – his solos and fills are models of waste-free incisiveness. He packs a lot of excitement into small spaces, an integral ensemble player rather than a show-off soloist. Vaughan's to-the-point vocals serve the songs well, but he hands the microphone to his fellow Austin, Texas, artist Lou Ann Barton on three tracks. As with everything in his career, Vaughan is glad to share. Just don't mistake that self-effacing style as a lack of talent. On the contrary, Vaughan's ability to choose his spots, let the groove ride, and play well with his friends is a kind of greatness all its own.

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