Danny Vaughn exploring Myths Legends and Lies

You can’t know everything of course and what you know about music is probably way more than most (I worked with someone once who’d never heard of Jimi Hendrix for pity’s sake) but until I interviewed him earlier this year (not long before lockdown) I must confess, slightly shamefacedly, that I’d never come across Danny Vaughn’s work.  It’s nice to know that life is full of surprises!  Danny Vaughn is great, simple as that!  He’s got a long pedigree going back into the dim past (some of which is explored in an interview with Bluesdoodles) as the lead singer with various bands and has appeared to have done a bit of everything.  This collection of songs, released almost exactly a year ago, was his first solo album in 11 years and like a classic fine wine the long gestation period has produced something really enjoyable, to be savoured.  Something that I personally have found frustrating about music reviews over the years has been the focus on the angst that can go along with creativity; rarely do you get a description of the elements that you enjoy as a music fan;  for example,  “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” is always described as a pained tribute to Syd Barrett, etc ad infinitum, with hardly a reference to the soaring dynamism of the music itself.  With that in mind, it has to said that these songs are all full of melody and wonderful hooks.  Opening track “In the Shadow of King John” kicks off with the setting on full-blown jaunty featuring a cracking tune that sounds like a major folk-rock hit from yesteryear that you’ve forgotten about.  This original number has some tuneful fiddling weaving throughout the arrangement, adding to its Irish air.  On top of everything are the powerfully melodic vocals of Danny Vaughn, hitting the high notes without making you wince.  I’m not going to dissect the lyrics (life’s too short!) but there’s a lot going on here to catch the ear and be worthy of repeated listening.  Above all, this is simply a joyous track that would have even the most flinty of souls tapping a toe and humming the chorus, slightly out of tune.  “Man or Machine” starts with a nifty motif on mandolin (it’s the sort of nice figure that acoustic strummers out there would enjoy jamming along to) that kicks into an up-tempo feel led by bass and drums before a memorable chorus. “The Good Life” is a good example of the fine musicianship on display. Starting with a one beat per bar bass drum accompaniment for the opening verse, a pounding drum fill leads to an insanely catchy organ riff that propels the imaginative lyrics along for the following verses (“If I smell the bloom of Jasmine, I will float up on her dream, if I taste the Isle of Lesbos, I will lick my fingers clean”). A haunting gypsy violin solo high up on the neck is followed by a lovely bluesy guitar solo, which leads onto a superb piece of Hammond soloing; brilliant playing.  The final verse is all unaccompanied vocals with the backing vocals supporting the lead with a gospel feel.  A really strong piece of music.  The singer is not afraid to flirt with a wider musical palette on “Last Ride of the Sunset Men” as the twangy, banjo-like country-rock feel gives way in the middle section to an (it has to be admitted, not wholly successful) venture into prog-rock territory with ominous synths playing behind a voice over. “Black Crow” starts with a solo Spanish guitar and sets the scene for a classic piece of Americana with memorable lyrics and its refrain of “Hangman where do you go, I’m following the footsteps of that old black crow, to find me an unfortunate soul” and a brooding cello riff.  “Monkeys with Money and Guns” is a powerful melodic rocker with typically striking lyrics “Here comes progress, with opposable thumbs, obsessed with porno and Italian sons, barely upright crashing through the glade, clutching 3D printers and aftershave” and a stinging guitar solo.   This is just the first 7 songs out of a generous 14 tracks, all full of superb melodies and inventive musical ideas, clever lyrics, and perfect vocal performances (“Kelly’s Gone” would have been all over the airwaves a few years back).  This is a really excellent set of songs, beautifully recorded that you will find yourself returning to often.  Highly recommended.

Bluesdoodles rating: Stupendous album excellent set of songs to return too often!

Tracklisting

  1. The Shadow of King John
  2. Man or Machine
  3. The Missouri Kid
  4. The Good Life
  5. Last Ride Of Sunset Men
  6. Black Crow
  7. Monkeys With Money And Guns
  8. Point The Way
  9. Deep Water
  10. Kelly’s Gone
  11. Something I Picked Up Along The Way
  12. Time Out Of Mind
  13. Seven Bells
  14. What You Left Behind
Danny Vaughn exploring Myths Legends and Lies

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