O, Brother, Wheres Thou Art?

Does it suck to be Stevie Ray Vaughans guitar-playing brother?

It must truly suck to go through life being Simon Townshend or Chris Jagger or Livingston Taylor or Jorge Santana or Mike McGear, knowing that no matter what you accomplish in this lifetime, your efforts will invariably be eclipsed by your more famous sibling. For that matter, how much must it suck to be Janet Jackson? You can score hit after hit, but none of it will ever equal one incident of having your nose fall off or igniting your hair or purchasing the Elephant Man corpse, not to mention any sensational accusations of boy-diddling? And one must also wonder what it feels like to be Jimmie Vaughan. Jimbo, of course, is the older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, who (when he was alive) was not only far more famous than his brother, but whose legacy has also grown to outlandish proportions since he took that helicopter flight to the big dirt-nap some 11 years ago. While Stevie Ray was forging his legend, becoming internationally celebrated for shredding like a piss storm and wearing silly-assed getups comprising pastel scarves, sequined vests and Billy Jack hats, Jimmie was marking time with the very greasy, no-nonsense, blue-collar Texas blues group the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Some hardcore blues aficionados long favored Jimmie's work over his li'l brother's: Stevie was at heart a rocker, very much a relation of Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, while Jimmie was the quintessential sideman to Fabulous Thunderbirds singer Kim Wilson, playing his ever-loving ass off in jeans and cowboy boots in a style rooted in old-fashioned blues values and tradition. He didn't draw a lot of attention to himself, but those in the know would cluck to themselves, "Yep, that Jimmie can sure pick a geet-tar, yessir" between gulps of bad domestic beer. Much has been written of the brothers' fondness for each other, how it took Jimmie years to get over Stevie's death and how he didn't even start his own solo career until 1994, a few years after quitting the Thunderbirds to record a duet album with his little bro. But some part of Jimmie, deep down inside, must have wanted to give Stevie a good, stiff kick in the 'nads—if not for earning millions more dollars than him, then for playing guitar as if he were being paid by the note. For Jimmie, bless his heart, is as old school as they come. He plays with impeccable taste and restraint, even though he can indeed shred like Stevie when he has a mind to. His tone is straight-up 1953 Chess Records, sounding for all the world like he's playing through a fucked-up old Fender tweed amp with decomposed speakers. I'm reminded of another famous guitarist—who, dear readers, shall remain nameless in the interest of discretion—who once told me, "It'd be great to be able to play guitar like Stevie Ray and then turn around and not do it."

Had they not been related, Jimmie would surely have been thinking the same thing, and perhaps he did anyway. There's no denying Stevie's precocious gifts, mind-boggling technique and connection to blues feeling. Yet there's also no denying he was guilty of overplaying, and there's no one else but Stevie to blame for the proliferation of blues teenyboppers like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd popping up like a vile contagion in his wake. Meanwhile, if Jimmie is guilty of anything, it's failing to toot his own horn loud enough so that anyone outside Texas hears the bleat. He deserves better.

Check out Jimmie's latest CD, Do You Get the Blues? This is tuff, coarsened, badass, authentic Lone Star bitchen-ness from beginning to end. It's not the kind of stuff that will necessarily inspire some 14-year-old kid in Iowa to pick up a guitar and follow in his footsteps; it's the kind of stuff that may have some 66-year-old black guy in Waco marveling, "How does a white boy play and sing like that?" Your next stop: the Coach House, where brother Jimmie will give you great googley-mooglies on Saturday night, all without a silly hat or vest.

Jimmie Vaughan performs at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Sat., 8 p.m. $26.50. 18+.
 
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