Expectations have to be high when you team up the two names behind MVP – Milligan Vaughan Project. “M” is the soulful sounds of vocalist Malford Milligan who has been a fixture in the Austin, Texas blues scene for a long time. He is probably best known for the short-lived critically acclaimed ’90s blues rockers Storyville with guitar players David Grissom, David Holt and the members of Double Trouble. “V” is Tyrone Vaughan, one of the guitarists for Royal Southern Brotherhood and son of Jimmie Vaughan, nephew of SRV. With production from David Grissom and a studded backing line up including Chris Maresh and Jeff Hayes on bass; Brannen Temple and Kenneth Furr on drums; Michael Ramos and Jay D. Stiles on keyboards; David Grissom and Jorge Castillo on guitars; and Mike Cross on backing vocals, this is an impressive collection of musicians.
With the opening track “Soul Satisfaction” you get a riff with plenty of space between it for a great big dose of Malford’s soulful vocals. “Dangerous Eyes” sounds like it could be an outtake from an early Fab-Thunderbirds album with Malford guesting instead of Kim Wilson on vocals. Michael Ramos on “Little Bit of Heaven” delivers some funky organ work. After that great dose of blues rock to open the album things take a little shift with the rhythmic “Driving You” where you can sit back and imagine a dance floor full of people working it to at some Texas Roadhouse.
A cover of Buddy Guy’s “Leave My Girl Alone” is paired down to just the essentials. Malford’s gritty vocals, a smooth slow shuffle from the rhythm section and some slow echo drenched guitar until Tyrone rips into the solo in the middle. They give an interesting twist on a cover of the great jazz piano and vocalists Les McCann’s “Compared To What.” “Here I Am” is a slow ballad that does not ever really go anywhere. “Devil’s Breath” groans away on the most traditional blues track of the album. The studio portion of the album ends with Tyrone strumming an acoustic and Malford breaking out that childhood Gospel experience with a short cover of the Rev. James Cleveland’s song “Two Wings.”
The last two tracks are covers recorded live at Austin’s SXSW music festival. First up is a track from Malford’s Storyville days with “What Passes For Love.” The recording quality of these two lives tracks is a little rough and honestly, they do not do it justice compared to Storyville’s original. I have to confess though that I played the daylight out of that CD back in college and Storyville and the Arc Angels were probably my favorite blues rock bands of the early ’90s so there is a huge prejudice on my part. The album closes out with the better of the two live-recorded tracks with the Freddie King classic “Palace of the King.”
MVP is a blues rock album that defines what the genre is from both ends. The connection between the two of them is excellent and they play off of each others strengths well. There’s plenty of potential here for more.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Soul Satisfaction
– Dangerous Eyes
– Little Bit of Heaven
The Big Hit
– Soul Satisfaction
Review by Kevin O’Rourke