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Hillbilly Rock: With ‘V,’ Kenny Vaughan Takes the Mic

Posted in MusicWorld on December 1, 2011 by

If you live in Nashville, you’ve probably seen guitarist Kenny Vaughan around. Matter of fact, if you don’t live in Nashville, you’ve probably seen him around — on a stage, on your television, in your wildest rockabilly fantasies. Even off-stage, this lanky, western-shirt-wearing fellow has the look of someone who carries a guitar pick in his pocket and a box of promo CDs in the trunk of his car.

For the last decade, Vaughan has worked as Marty Stuart’s guitarist — a gig that’s had him ripping into his Telecaster alongside legends like Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson — but in September, he released his first-ever solo album, V, on Sugar Hill Records.

Does Vaughan’s boss man have any qualms about his solo album? Not a one. In fact, Vaughan borrowed Stuart’s band for the entire album, and Stuart himself sat in on a couple of V tracks.

Vaughan’s masterful album includes 10 rockabilly songs. Some, like opener “Country Music Got a Hold On Me,” have been thrilling Stuart’s audiences for years; others are brand new. The instrumental “Minuit Sur La Plage,” for instance, came to Vaughan one recent morning as he drove his kids to school. To capture the melody, Vaughan dialed his own cell phone and sang into the answering machine.

Writing his own songs isn’t an entirely new thing for Vaughan, though it’s been 40-plus years since he last fronted an act, a scrappy Colorado rock band that once opened for Elvis Costello. Even then, Vaughan says he’d sneak away many a night to pursue his real passion: country music.

“It was like I lived two different lives,” says Vaughan. “Nobody from the rock & roll world knew that I was [playing at the Colorado honky-tonks], and nobody from the country world knew that I had my own rock band.”

In the ’80s, Vaughan gave himself over to country music and made a permanent move to Nashville, where he’s remained a first-call session guitarist.

“I never really had a day job,” says Vaughan. “Playing guitar is my day job. It’s really kind of cool.”

Dig deeper into all things Kenny Vaughan at www.kennyvaughan.net.