NOTE: I’m working on a Stevie Ray Vaughan series but in the meantime ….
Brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughn had grown up in Dallas, Texas and developed their blues-playing chops in Austin, 200 miles south. Both went on to fame, Jimmie as a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie as a blues/rock superstar.
But even though their careers went in different directions, they also stayed in touch and their bands played together over the years.
But by 1990 they realized a dream they’d been putting off for a number of years which was doing an album together. Clearing their schedules, they got uber-producer Nile Rodgers to produce it. Rodgers – who produced Madonna, Duran Duran, and Diana Ross – may seem like an odd choice.
But he had co-produced David Bowie’s Let’s Dance which helped put SRV on the map. And the brothers just wanted to shake it up and do something different. (Old friend Billy Gibbons was on the shortlist to produce but his management nixed the idea.)
Not wanting to use the same players they’d always been using, Rodgers brought in bassman Al Berry and drummer Larry Aberman. (Doyle Bramhall played drums on it as well.)
First up, the album kick-off track, a taut rocker, “Hard to Be.” Roll ’em and I’ll just .. feel somethin’:
Jimmie Vaughan: “We didn’t have anything to compare this project to. We were a ‘new artist’ The Vaughan Brothers was something new. There were a lot of times where I was thinking of something to do and Stevie would already be doing it. I guess it comes from having the same blood, growing up together and having a lot of the same influences.”
Here’s a tasty instrumental groove called “Hillbillies from Outer Space.” With some juicy organ by a guy named Richard Hilton, this has got a bit of “Green Onions” flavor. You could cruise down the street in your convertible Caddy to this:
I’m digging this you’re (I hope) saying. But it’s nice and laid back. Where’s some of that trademark SRV fire? Check out “Long Way From Home:”
If there’s any criticism of this album, it’s that it’s not as hard-hitting as Stevie’s albums or quite as bluesy as Jimmie’s work with Thunderbirds. But so what? You want those albums, go buy ’em. As Jimmie said, this one’s a different beast. This one comes out of SRV’s several years of sobriety and the affection these guys have for each other.
Sadly, this would be the last album Stevie would record. He was killed in a helicopter accident in August of 1990 and this album was released in September of that year. The album peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.