Artpark, like all outdoor venues, is subject to the weather, and with the rain falling fairly steadily during the day, a few folks probably opted out of driving to Lewiston for the Jimmie Vaughan concert Tuesday night.
As the clouds hanging over the Niagara Gorge parted, revealing blue sky, the early attendees were proved right in their optimism. Sea gulls were riding the air currents overhead as latecomers began rolling in and filling up the lawn in front of the Artpark stage.
By the time Vaughan and his band hit the stage, the grounds were fairly packed and ready to rock.
Vaughan was the original guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, a blues-based batch of musicians with a raw, visceral approach to the blues that relied heavily on punchy, no-frills, pared-to-the-bone guitar riffs teaming up with Kim Wilson's vocals and harmonica playing. Eventually, Vaughan's vision collided with Wilson's commercial desires, and the guitarist left the band.
Years later, all of this brings Vaughan and his newest batch of musical cohorts to Artpark, where they unveiled a lot of material from his new album, "Jimmie Vaughan Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites." The title of the project pretty much says it all, since most of the selections on the album are tunes that helped influence Vaughan.
After a tightly wound instrumental that opened the set, the band went right into an old Guitar Junior classic, "Roll, Roll, Roll" and "Blues for Sale," a swingin' saxophone feature for tenor player Greg Piccolo that was originally written by jazz critic Leonard Feather. The classic "Just a Little Bit," a standard done by everyone from Junior Wells to Steve Miller, was another stunner.
Although Vaughan is a great guitar player, one who never overstays his welcome by soloing ad infinitum when he can play what's necessary and then get out of the way, he is a just-above-average singer. While most of the first hour in Vaughan's set was a mixture of his vocals and some instrumental flashes, things improved during the back end of the program when Lou Ann Barton came onstage to wail.
Wail is probably the wrong word to use, since Barton's voice was powerful and controlled but with an edge that separates her singing from that of most of her blues contemporaries.
The mix of Vaughan's guitar playing and Barton, the chanteuse, was a superb thing to witness.
The opening act, Western New York's Blues Remedy, began its set with a small batch of admirers crowding the pit in front of the stage and ended up with a fairly substantial group of fans by the time the set was done. Guitarist Joe Zappo (aka "Dr. Z"), a local legend recently honored by the Western New York Blues Society for his musical contributions, soloed sparingly and to the point, leaving most of the instrumental flourishes to keyboard wiz J.J. Moscato.
The rhythm section of bassist Jim Morabito and drummer Rob Lynch were solid, not flashy.
Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl Band
Part of Tuesday in the Park at Artpark, Lewiston.