Perhaps it was a private joke or a reference to Vaughan's passion for vintage automobiles. Either way, he seemed amused and appreciative. One thing it could not have been, however, was an inside dig at Out There, 'cause it has no flat tires. Coming four years after Vaughan's solo debut, Strange Pleasure, it's full of spare, spindly blues playing and smokin' Southwestern soul.
"Like a King," written for Vaughan by Nile Rodgers, who produced Family Style, Vaughan's duet album with little brother Stevie Ray, kicks things off in style, as Vaughan's fat guitar lines underscore a lyric about how fine his woman makes him feel. The rave-up "Out There" can stand next to Strange Pleasure's "Boom-Bapa-Boom" as a high-voltage rocker, while "Can't Say No" offers a nice change of pace in the form of a slow, sultry blues on which Vaughan's desire is positively palpable.
Vaughan never has been a terrific singer, but he invests songs like "Positively Meant to Be" and "Astral Projection Blues" with subtle vocal touches previously unavailable to him. It's also nice, of course, when he lets his six-string do the talking, as on the grinding, hot-blooded instrumental, "The New Ironic Twist," and the acoustic closing number, "Little Son, Big Son." Vaughan also tears it up on the Johnny "Guitar" Watson tune "Motorhead Baby" and invites Dr. John to sit in on "Lost in You," which he wrote with the venerable Mr. Rebennack.
While Vaughan's former bandmate, Kim Wilson, flounders as he tries to keep the Fabulous Thunderbirds imprimatur flying, the guitarist shows he knows where it's at, keeping his wheels flat on the ground -- and properly inflated, thanks -- rolling down the road at top speed.
-- Daniel Durchholz