After a quarter-century of professional music-making, Jimmie Vaughan--guitarist, singer, songwriter--emerges as a "new artist" on what the Houston, TX Chronicle's four-star review called "a most auspicious debut by an old friend." In the grooves of Strange Pleasure, this quietly visionary musician--who set the blues and rock worlds on fire with The Fabulous Thunderbirds--shows that rough-and-tumble swamp boogie is only one of the colors on his stylistic palette.
Strange Pleasure contains eleven songs written or co-written by Jimmie Vaughan, and it's not surprising that their predominant musical shade is blue. There are infectious shuffles like "Don't Cha Know" and "Flamenco Dancer," and the greasy sax-and-organ-powered instrumental "Tilt A Whirl." But then there's the touching "Six Strings Down," a tribute to Jimmie's late younger brother Stevie Ray, co-written with Neville Brothers Art and Cyril. Two other changes of pace: "Hey-Yeah," with its echoes of early Motown soul; and the heartfelt gospel number "Love The World," co-written by Jimmie and Dr. John the Night Tripper (Mac Rebbenack).
Dedicated to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins, Strange Pleasure was produced by Nile Rodgers, with whom the Vaughan Brothers worked on their platinum 1990 album Family Style. "Nile is like having a young Count Basie or something," Jimmie enthuses. "He knows music, and he had what I didn't have. He totally helped me realize my vision."
The new album's first radio track, "Boom-Bapa-Boom," was also the first song written for Strange Pleasure. "I was sitting in the dining room," Jimmie recalls, "and I got a feeling like I wanted to play, so I got my guitar and turned on the tape recorder. After you get a couple of those moments, you get inspired." The title track 'Strange Pleasure', on the other hand, "was just a haunting melody that came to me and wouldn't go away. That's pretty much what the whole record is."
"When you're writing songs, every once in a while you get a special feeling--it just sort of comes to you. You don't make the song up, you just feel like you received it, like from a radio. That kind of stuff is what I tried to put on this record."
Jimmie Vaughan, on electric and acoustic guitars and lead vocals, is backed on Strange Pleasure by a core band of veteran Austin musicians, his friends and associates of many years. Denny Freeman (piano) is a former member of the legendary Cobras (with Stevie Ray Vaughan) and a solo recording artist in his own right. Drummer George Rains drives the house band at fabled Austin blues club Antone's. Hammond B-3 organist Bill Willis' career dates back to the early '50s, when he played on seminal blues and R&B sessions for King Records of Cincinnati; he has worked with Freddie King and Lavern Baker, among many others. (That's Bill playing all of Strange Pleasure's bass lines on the B-3.)
A native of Dallas, Texas and a longtime resident of Austin, Jimmie Vaughan was a founding member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The T-Birds enjoyed a six-year, five-album run on Epic Associated, beginning in 1986 with the platinum album Tuff Enuff and its Top Ten title single. Jimmie played his last gig with The T-Birds on June 16, 1990 in Fort Hood, Texas.
By that time, he and younger brother Stevie Ray Vaughan had completed their first studio collaboration, Family Style, released on Epic Associated in September 1990. No one could have foreseen than just a few weeks prior to the album's release, Stevie Ray would die in a Wisconsin helicopter crash at the age of 35.
"After the accident, I didn't want to hear about anything for about two and half years," Jimmie told the Boston Globe. "Everything changes when something like that happens in your life. Everything...I never stopped playing, but I didn't want to go on tour or make a record for the longest time."
But in 1992, Eric Clapton called to ask Jimmie if he would consider opening a series of Clapton concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. "I just didn't have the guts to tell him no. So I went and got me a band... and went over and did those dates [in February-March '93]. There were like 16 dates and, by the end of them, we got really good. Then I came back and said, 'Man, we're all fired up now. What are we gonna do? Let's do something.' So we started making a record." The result, said Guitar magazine, "has the warm feel of a get-together among friends as Vaughan surveys blues, rock, and soul hybrids in a kind of personal version of the melting pot of Texas border radio... It's one stylishly low-key and soulful blues album."
"I've never made music according to what was 'hot' or what was on the charts," says Jimmie Vaughan. "Strange Pleasure is exactly the record I was ready to make, the way I chose to make it. It's just music, but it sounds pretty good to me!"