The Vickie Vaughn Band has been making the bluegrass rounds over the past few years, racking up appearances at the Station Inn, Music City Roots, and the World of Bluegrass, securing a nomination for an IBMA Momentum Award, and serving as representatives of the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s Bluegrass in the Schools program. The group recently released their first recorded effort, a self-titled, six track EP produced by Ronnie McCoury.
Like many young bluegrass bands these days, the Vickie Vaughn Band seems to have a background in traditional grass but a more progressive outlook overall. Justin Hiltner’s banjo provides a solid bluegrass anchor for the group, while jazzy fiddle from Maggie Estes White and soulful vocals from bassist Vaughn steer the group into more modern territory. Guitarist Zach White and mandolin player Casey Campbell round out the group, ably shifting from driving picking to soft folk and acoustic country melodies as needed.
Of the EP’s six songs, four are originals from the band. Vaughn wrote Buy All the Roads, an enjoyable ode to memories of growing up in western Kentucky. Any young person who has moved away from home (especially in a rural area) to find work or follow their dreams should be able to identify with this gentle number. Vaughn has a very expressive voice, and this song suits it well. Hiltner wrote the upbeat opening track, This Dance, an energetic number that finds the singer navigating recurring feelings for an old love. It features some nice instrumental solos but the vocal phrasing seems just a bit off at times – though that could be from a choice to channel a more progressive style. Hiltner also contributed the dark, fast-paced instrumental Congaree, which I’m sure the band has a lot of fun with during live shows.
Zach White wrote and sings lead on Northbound 205, a smooth, folky song about a man returning to a woman he loves, and asking himself, “Should I let you go? Should I follow through?” White has a calm, lilting voice that, with its hint of James Taylor, fits this singer-songwriter style song well. Rounding out the EP are Won’t Be Long, written by popular old-time musician Cahalen Morrison, and a bluesy Workin’ on a Building with a slow groove, slinky vocals, and an extended instrumental break.
The highlight of the album is the instrumentation. The group is skilled, with a tight sound and a wide range of abilities. The vocals are at their best on the slower, more introspective songs like Buy All the Roads and Northbound 205. The former stands out in particular, especially with its story’s personal connection to Vaughn’s life. Overall, the EP is a solid first effort from a band that is continuing to hone its style and its place in the intersection of traditional and progressive bluegrass.
For more information on the Vickie Vaughn Band, visit the group’s website at www.vickievaughnband.com. Their new EP is available from several online music retailers.