Onstage with Steve Miller at Jazz at Lincoln Center in early December, the guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, Texas blues royalty at age 66, used his generous solo spots to invoke history. Electric blues guitar, with its rough-edged phrasing and tonal grit, saw that winsome rawness smoothed over as blues-rock became a virtuoso’s medium (see Vaughan’s iconic little brother, Stevie Ray). But Vaughan’s playing imagined a world in which T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown are still playing one-nighters, and the British Invasion and Jimi Hendrix never happened. Like Lou Donaldson or Loretta Lynn, he delivers an unmistakable and distinctly American sound that is equally rousing and comforting.
Over the past few years, Vaughan has taken his midcentury vibe to the organ-trio format, and a recent album, Live at C-Boy’s (Proper), captured at an Austin joint where Vaughan enjoys a regular gig, looks toward a bygone era of greasy grooves in corner bars. Recorded with the late, great Texan Frosty Smith on drums and organist Mike Flanigin—a disciple of Big John Patton who also appeared with Vaughan at JALC—the record delivers all the populist fun you could want from a dusty old organ LP: the on-the-spot arrangements of tunes learned by ear; the blues-based harmonies with touches of jazz learning; the funk-laced sense of swing; the Beatles cover. Vaughan wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t want [music] to be a job,” he told me in New York last year, seated next to Flanigin in a posh hotel lobby. “Even though I work hard at it, you don’t want to think of it that way.”