(The Ted Vaughn Blues Band) ... is quickly carving a reputation as one of the Pacific Northwest's favorite bands.
- The Salem Business Journal
Artist: The Ted Vaughn Blues Band
Album: The Ted Vaughn Blues Band
Review by Mike DeGagne
With decades of experience under their belts, The Ted Vaughn Blues Band have melded all of their performing and recording experience to release their self-titled debut album. Blues harp player and lead man Ted Vaughn was born and raised in Texas, and his influences include blues heavyweights like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf. It’s not difficult to hear how these and other classic blues players have rubbed off on Ted and his band throughout the years. With Clay ’Bone’ King on guitar and vocals, Leon Forrest on keys, Ted Larson playing bass, and drummer Ian Henderson, The Ted Vaughn Blues Band has been able to create some truly slick and smooth blues music that will appeal to all lovers of the harmonica-led sound. The group has lit up the Pacific Northwest with their music, playing a myriad of festivals and venues in and around the Oregon area.
The album contains three songs written by Ted Vaughn himself. “Them 12 Bar Blues” opens with some electrifying harmonica work, which is then merged with Vaughn’s bluesy voice. There’s a great blues feel established right away, and the tune is chock full of energy thanks to the spectacular guitar playing and rolling mouth harp interplay. The “classic blues” air runs right through this tune, and it’s a great opener for the album.
“Nothin’ But Trouble” is your standard, slowed-down blues number with its sultry, smooth, and suave feel. There’s a superb “smoky bar” air felt right away, mainly due to the magnificent intermingling of the guitar and vocals. Lovers of that relaxed, velvety harmonica style will get their fill on this number, as Ted and the boys manage to establish that classic down-and-out mood with the tune’s unhurried pace.
At the other end of the blues spectrum, “Swang Thang” flits, swoops, and bounces with spectacular energy. A pumped up blues instrumental piece, the heart of this tune is bolstered by some stellar organ vibrancy and a great back-beat pounce. Once again, the harmonica plays a key role in igniting the upbeat blues sound that makes this tune one of the album’s highlights.
As far as the standards go, tracks like John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killin’ Floor” are covered respectfully, without losing any of the classic feel from the originals. “Boom Boom” uses Vaughn’s vocals to give it just enough nuance to give it that differentiation, while “Killin’ Floor” is lightly powdered with the band’s contemporary blues stealth, lit up with some more excellent keyboard flair. It’s not difficult to see how the classic Chicago blues sound has influenced these players. Their covers are tightly played and unyielding in terms of representing that timeless blues aura.
There are a few other standouts on the album as well. “I Love You Baby” sways appealingly throughout its duration, while “Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave” , penned by Charlie Rich and made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis, harnesses some terrific blues power in the vocals. The tune switches to a perky piano led number after the slow intro quickly changes gear, and then in classic blues form, resorts back to its relaxed nature.
The Ted Vaughn Blues Band is an album that works from the get-go, since it has an even keel of entertaining blues styles amongst its ten tracks. The originals fit nicely with the covers, and the instrumental work adds enough color and vibrancy to the tracks to keep them sounding fresh and fun throughout their entirety. The production on this album is clean and crisp thanks to Leon Forrest, the band’s keyboard player, who harbours the skills of producer and engineer as well as musician.
Blues fans old or young won’t be disappointed with this debut album from The Ted Vaughn Blues Band. There’s plenty to hang your hat on, no matter what flavor of blues you desire. The playing is tight, the sound is sharp, and Vaughn himself has been able to successfully lend his voice to the cuts to give them enough distinctiveness to breed a blues persona all their own.
Review by Mike DeGagne
Rating: 4 stars ( out of 5 )