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CD REVIEW: Chris Vaughn - Chris Vaughn
By Chip Withrow - 07/02/2006 - 10:50 AM EDT

Artist: Chris Vaughn
Album: Chris Vaughn
CD Review: Listening to Chris Vaughn’s self-titled CD, I find myself thinking about the randomness of country music success.

Here’s a guy who, unlike many of the big names in Nashville, writes almost all of his own songs. Vaughn creates contemporary-sounding country music that is still firmly rooted in tradition.

To my ears, Vaughn’s disc is as good as what I hear on the radio. It’s closer to Dwight Yoakam than Kenny Chesney, a well-produced effort that is slick but with some serious twang as well.

So why isn’t this guy on CMT? As far as potential hits, Vaughn gives us the clever and catchy “Backward” and “Out of Your Mind.” I’m playing these songs over and over again instead of tuning into the local “from the latest to the greatest” country station.

I like the ode to a trucker’s life, “500 Miles,” to start the album. It’s a straight-ahead rock and roll number, a punchy attention-getter. Later in the disc comes the other barn-burner, the bluegrassy “Picture in My Mind.”

The cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “In Memory of a Memory” is a perfect choice. Vaughn pours out an aching vocal of one of the best country lyrics I’ve heard lately. That song and the pretty “I Still Love You” (dig the soulful piano work) show that Vaughn can deliver a sensitive ballad.

Even the song that I think gets too cute lyrically, “Material Cowgirl,” is a musical romp. And maybe I’d appreciate the tune more if I were a cowboy. I have to stress that Vaughn's band (piano in the spotlight again, this time fun and strolling) absolutely swings.

I can imagine the closing track, the mid-tempo “The Wind,” being a big hit. It’s a bittersweet look at a couple who don't see eye to eye, and it has crisp drumming and a crying guitar solo.

The musician who is all over this disc, whose riffs blow me away, is pedal steel player Steve Easter. Check out how he makes “Backward” (my favorite cut) absolutely cook. Anyone who wants to have a country band needs to find a guy like this.

Granted, Chris Vaughn doesn’t break much new ground here, but every number is worth a listen. If you like popular country music, and you give this disc a chance, you will see that Chris merits a shot at big-time success. He’s his own man, in charge of his own sound and image, and that’s refreshing.

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