Blues Bytes

Surprise

October/November 2017

The Milligan Vaughan Project
MVP
Mark One Records

MVPThe Milligan Vaughan Project brings together two of Austinís finest musicians. Singer Malford Milligan has been a part of that cityís music scene since the early í80s, and is probably best remembered as front man for the í90s Texas super group Storyville, which consisted of Milligan, David Holt, David Grissom, and the rhythm section of Double Trouble, Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton. Guitarist Tyrone Vaughan is the son of guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan and currently a member of another super group, Royal Southern Brotherhood, playing on the bandís last two albums.

One listen to the projectís debut release, MVP (Mark One Records), and blues fans will wish that these two had joined forces a long time ago. The disc consists of nine studio tracks recording in Austin at Arlyn Studios and 512 Studios, with two bonus tracks pulled from their first live show at Austinís One 2 One club during SXSW. Grissom, Milliganís former Storyville bandmate, serves as producer (with Omar Vellejo) of this incredible set, which burns from start to finish.

Milliganís force-of-nature vocals are on full display from the get-go with the funky blues rocker opener, "Soul Sensation," with Vaughanís guitar and the ultra-tight rhythm section pushing him relentlessly. If youíre not still listening after that one, you probably need to be browsing the Soft Pop section at iTunes. "Dangerous Eyes" eases the pace a bit, taking a nimbler approach, but is no less intense, "Little Bit of Heaven" takes a more soulful approach with a dash of funk thrown in for good measure, and the swaggering blues "Driving You" is superb.

Two cover tunes arrive at the midpoint of the album. First up is a simmering read of Buddy Guyís "Leave My Girl Alone," highlighted by a robust vocal from Milligan and a blistering solo from Vaughan, followed by a frenzied take on the Les McCann jazz standard, "Compared To What." For the tender ballad "Here I Am," Milligan goes into full soul man mode, really showcasing his vocal versatility. The torrid blues rocker "Devilís Breath" leads into the studio finale, Milligan straight testifying on Rev. James Clevelandís "Two Wings," backed by Vaughan on acoustic guitar.

As mentioned above, the disc closes with two live tracks from the bandís debut live performance at SXSW, a cover of Storyvilleís gritty "What Passes For Love" (from their 1996 Atlantic Records debut, Piece of Your Soul  --- check out this band at your first opportunity as they are one of the great bands you might have missed in the í90s soul/blues/rock genre) and Freddie Kingís classic "Palace of the King," which closes the disc in perfect fashion.

MVP is an excellent debut for the Milligan Vaughan project, a collaboration that will hopefully be an enduring one.

--- Graham Clarke

 

 

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