As a third generation musician, Tyrone Vaughan was born and bred to sing and play country music, and with a distinctive Texas spirit to boot. The son of blues guitar icon Jimmie Vaughan and nephew of legend Stevie Ray, he brings that hot Vaughan guitar sound to his style, plus a whole lot more: further musical lineage from his mother’s family, growing up and coming of age in the musically rich burg of Austin, considerable stage, studio and songwriting experience, and then the sizzle that comes with finding his soul, voice and creative sweet spot as a new yet firmly rooted breed of contemporary musical artist.
Finding himself as well as an already growing following is what gives Vaughan’s debut album, Downtime, its considerable power and appeal as an introduction to a singer, songwriter and guitarist with a deep musical heritage that he infuses into a something all his own. With his mighty, manly and naturally twangy voice leading the charge, Vaughan laces his music with vibrant fiddle, banjo, steel guitar, dobro and mandolin. And then he adds some extra special sauce of the tasty and fiery guitar licks that are a Vaughan family trademark. The results meld roots and contemporary verve with a rocking energy, killer songs, and an appeal that is irresistible.
The disc offers a winning mix of moods and modes that reflect the breadth of today’s country music. It brims with vitality on such upbeat slices of life we all are familiar with on “Downtime” – the first single and title track – “Buzz Kill” and “Ladies Man.” Vaughan reaches back into the tradition on the sorrowful ballad “The House Feels So Empty,” and summons up a big and touching moment on “I Wanna Hear You Sing.” Whiffs of the blues, rock and soul that he grew up with bring bold and broad dimensions to such songs as “Bubba Dan,” “She Could’ve Had Everything,” “9 Times Out Of 10” and “Next Stop… Texas.” And then he closes the collection by bringing it all back home on the closing tour de force “L-O-V-E.”
Music surrounded Vaughan since his ears first opened to the world. His adoptive father who married his mother and raised him had “a huge album collection that covered everything from A to Z.” As a kid he went with his parents to such legendary Austin clubs as the Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon and Antone’s, hearing the depth and breadth of Texas music from legendary musicians.
Tyrone didn’t learn Grammy winner Jimmie Vaughan was his natural father until he was six years old. He got his first guitars as a youngster from his uncle Stevie Ray, who was ruling the Austin scene at that time before he found fame, and took his nephew Tyrone under his wing while Jimmie was touring heavily with his band The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
At the same time as he got to know his genetic blues legacy, country music also captured Vaughan’s imagination. The first single he ever bought was Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” His maternal grandfather led a country band in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for years. “I was always a music lover,” Vaughan explains. “I was a fan long before I got into playing.”
A boots and jeans Texas guy in his youth and still today, Vaughan was more interested in playing sports than music during his high school years. “I played basketball, baseball, and a little football, and did golf and bowling. I was into girls and sports,” he recalls.
In his late teens, as he developed a bond of friendship with his father following the death of his uncle, playing guitar captured Tyrone’s spirit. “Stevie and Jimmie? How could you not want to play?” he points out. Soon after Vaughan graduated high school, he and a cousin from his mother’s side of the family with some friends started a band called Breedlove.
They quickly rose to the top of the Austin scene. “A following is building and worship is growing,” noted the Austin Chronicle at the time. Breedlove won Best New Band in the Austin Music Awards, and their popularity spread across the state to pack the biggest clubs in Dallas, Houston and other cities. The press raved about the band’s “in-the-pocket finesse far beyond its years… memorable melodies [and] considerable musicianship, hum-along choruses [and] lyrics economical and direct.” as well the “rhythmic fluidity” of Vaughan’s lead guitar work, as the Houston Press noted. Record labels began eying Breedlove’s promise.
Drawing from many of the styles Vaughan was familiar with thanks to the diversity of the music made in Austin, “we could be free with what we played and wrote,” he recalls. But Breedlove’s mixed stylistic bag failed to spread much beyond Texas and win them a record deal. By the time the band ran its course, Vaughan had earned a PhD. level working education in the music game and winning over and entertaining crowds while his peers were taking college classes.
Vaughan was determined to make music his career and find a stylistic focus that was true to his soul and his talents. And also not trade on the fame of his father and uncle and make his own way as an artist. The way to do so quickly became obvious. “I just embraced my country roots,” he explains. “The first time I sang a straight-ahead country vocal, my voice felt right at home.”
As he honed his songwriting and singing while developing his own distinctive sound, he also was invited to work and play with other artists. He wrote a song for and played on his father’s Grammy winning album, Do You Get the Blues? And also performed with the likes of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, fellow Texas music scene son Doyle Bramhall II, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band Double Trouble, the late Pinetop Perkins and Little Jimmy King, among others.
After touring with his band to road test and season their sound, Tyrone knew he was ready to make his mark with the 10 potent and varied songs to be heard on his first album. And in the process of doing so, take the Vaughan family style into a whole new genre.
“I keep the Vaughan guitar in there, but with fiddle, banjo and steel in there as well,” he explains. “So it’s this whole different vibe.”
And when he takes the stage, Vaughan offers an exciting musical experience that appeals to a broad spectrum of listeners. “The show has a little bit of everything in it,” he notes. “It’s country all day long, but it also rocks, and there’s blues — I can’t deny it.”
What’s also undeniable is Vaughan’s full-blooded musical command as well as a famed family guitar talent and sound infused into his own next-generation vision. It’s a combination bound to ensure that in the years to come, Downtime will be a favorite break to take for country music fans and more.
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