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March 2008

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Maurice John Vaughn
Generic Blues Album
Alligator Records

Maurice John Vaughn

In 1984, Maurice John Vaughn released Generic Blues Album on his own Reecy label. Though it’s a distant memory now, back in the ’80s many foods were sold as “generic,” meaning that there were no brand name and also no frills in the packaging, which was usually just a plain white container with black print. This cut costs for the consumers, who still got good food without the fancy packaging. While this was a clever packaging idea by Vaughn, it was also one made out of necessity. Reecy was running on a pretty thin budget, so generic was about all the label could afford.

While the label of the disc may have been generic, the music inside certainly was not. Vaughn was a rare triple threat in the blues genre. He got his start playing saxophone, recording with the Chicago R&B group The Chosen Few in the mid ’70s for Chi-Sound Records. He picked up guitar around that time when jobs for saxophone players dried up and there was more rhythm section work available. He eventually went to work backing Phil Guy on a Canadian tour and got the blues bug, eventually appearing with Guy on a couple of his records for JSP. From there, he began playing with other Chicago artists like Luther Allison, Queen Sylvia Embry, Son Seals, and Valerie Wellington.

Vaughn became one of Chicago’s most in-demand session players, appearing on Casey Jones’ Solid Blue album and enjoying extended service with Chicago sax man A. C. Reed, playing on a couple of Reed’s albums and even recording an LP together with Reed in France. He also produced a single for Detroit Junior on his Reecy label as well as his own album, which he mostly sold from the bandstand at his gigs.

Generic Blues Album is a solid set of ’80s-era Chicago blues, with Vaughn doubling on sax and guitar along with Leo Davis on keyboards, Kenny Pickens on bass, and Bill Leathers on drums. Allen Batts appears on a couple of tracks on keys, as does Casey Jones on drums. Vaughn wrote all of the songs, and while they nod to the style of past Chicago blues, they also focus on modern problems and situations, including “Computer Took My Job,” “Without That Bread,” and “I Got Money.”

Other highlights include the funky opener, “I Done Told Ya,” “Girl Don’t Live Here,” the smart title track (with Zora Young contributing vocals), and “Garbage Man Blues.”

In 1987, Vaughn was showcased as part of Alligator Records’ The New Bluebloods anthology, with a slow-burning track, “Nothing Left To Believe In.” Alligator picked up Generic Blues Album from Reecy and made it available to a larger audience. The CD version included “Nothing Left To Believe In” and “Wolf Bite,” a tribute to Howlin’ Wolf (who was definitely an influence on Vaughn’s gruff vocal style) as bonus tracks.

Vaughn released a great follow-up disc for Alligator, In The Shadow of The City, in 1993, and then went to work as A&R man for Appaloosa Records, also serving as a producer for several of their releases. In 2001, he released Dangerous Road, another fine effort, on Blue Suit Records. He also appeared on a couple of Detroit Junior’s albums, including the Delmark release, Blues On The Internet.

An excellent release that might have slipped through the cracks the first time around, Generic Blues Album is, as the album cover indicates “100% Pure Blues.”

--- Graham Clarke


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