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STEVIE'S LAST RAY

The Vaughan BrothersFamily Style

Epic

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These posthumous albums are rough on reviewers. The tendency is to want to canonize the late musician _ in this case, guitar firebrand Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in August in a helicopter crash.

For his last recorded effort, Stevie Ray teamed up for the first time with his brother Jimmie, a formidable six-stringer in his own right. The resulting album, Family Style, is a solid Texas rhythm-and-blues outing that's a nice addition to the Stevie Ray legacy, but won't challenge his better work as a leader.

The entire affair comes off as a bit restrained. It's as if the brothers wanted to avoid turning their collaboration into a cutting contest; and, as a result, the set is short on fireworks. A load of rip-snortin', no-holds-barred, stinging guitaristics would have made Family Style a more satisfying effort. Stevie is a burner, while Jimmie is more of a picker, but they don't meld as well as one would expect.

There are highlights: The chugging blues Hillbillies From Outerspace, where Jimmie's warped steel guitar blends beautifully with Stevie's guitar punctuations and swinging, jazzy solo. On the album-closing slow blues Brothers, Stevie pulls out the stops with a long, passionate solo, backed by Rockin' Sydney's accordion and Jimmie's tasteful rhythm work.

Baboom/Mama Said is a tautly funky workout with some great interlocking guitar between the brothers and album producer Nile Rodgers. Tick Tock is a nice slice of mid-tempo Memphis soul, and includes one of Stevie's most tender vocals. Long Way From Home provides the album's best rocking rave-up.

The remaining tunes come off a tad flat. R&B numbers White Boots and Good Texan are especially disposable.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a rare, incendiary blues talent. His recorded swan song is not a landmark work, and there's absolutely no shame in that.

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