This Saturday at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater, Cincinnati rockers Vaughn and Company celebrate the release of their fourth album, Play It Again. Veteran local singer/songwriter Kevin Fox and his band (also celebrating a new release) and Fathead Davis also perform. Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is just $5.
Mark Twain purportedly came up with the line, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” The same could be said about Cincinnati weather lately. And it can also be used to describe Vaughn and Co.’s Play It Again — if you don’t like a song, wait a minute, because there’s a good chance you’ll like something else coming up.
Genre-surfing is a risky proposition, creatively, for artists, who can either wind up making an album that sounds like a compilation of different, divergent acts or, worse, end up sounding like genre tourists, butchering an entire form of music in the name of diversity.
On Play It Again, Vaughn and Co. do it right, unexpectedly touching on genres like Jazz and Reggae, but never not sounding like Vaughn and Co.
At its core, Vaughn and Co. has a “Heartland Rock”-type of sound, thanks to the songwriting and gifted singer Ronnie Vaughn’s gruff vocals, which bring to mind Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp.
Vaughn’s voice gives Play It Again a cohesion that even the more “outside the lines” tracks — like the slow-swinging, jazzy ballad “Changed & Tired’ or the Reggae-driven “Gone” — can’t disrupt.
The songs on Play It Again are well-crafted, showcasing not only the deft musicianship and versatility of the members but also some really strong melodies.
Kick off track “In Stride” has a great chorus hook, while elsewhere the melodies pull the listener into the soothing, balladic “I Feel Love.”
Throughout, the band intermingles Modern and Classic Rock vibes — “Your Type” is your new favorite Springsteen song (he never recorded), thanks to newest member Greg Hurd’s sax work, while “Wasted” is more akin to contemporary Rock, something you wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a station like WEBN. Other highlights include “Games,” which also flirts with Jazz rhythms, and “Carlos,” an unabashed tribute to Santana’s Latin Rock fusion.
For more on Vaughn and Co., visit vaughnandco.com.
More Local Notes
• Even for well-established artists, it was difficult to stand out at this year’s South By Southwest fest in Austin, Texas, which recently wrapped up (and featured appearances by locals like The Seedy Seeds, Buffalo Killers, The Harlequins and Bootsy Collins, who participated in some great panel discussions about Funk). This year’s event had Prince, Dave Grohl and his all-star “Sound City Players” and Green Day, so to earn a buzz for your show, you really had to do something special. The Afghan Whigs did just that, pulling off one of the biggest surprise coups of the entire event — a special appearance (for half of their set) by superstar Usher. The modern Pop/R&B legend was a surprise special guest at the Whigs’ “Fader Fort” show (presented by The Fader magazine), which began with a few Whigsian tunes (including their Frank Ocean “Lovecrimes” cover) before the group launched into Usher’s “Climax.” The singer joined the band halfway through, then stayed around for versions of the Whigs’ “Somethin’ Hot,” his smash “OMG” and other tunes. It ended up being one of the most talked about events of SXSW. Visit the music blog at citybeat.com to watch the entire performance.
• Elementz, which uses the Hip Hop arts to engage local inner city youth, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this Thursday with a special “open house” reception at the organization’s headquarters (1100 Race St., Over-the-Rhine) beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event will feature numerous performances by artists who have benefited from the Elementz program. Admission is $10 (or $12 at the door), which will go to help fund the center’s programming. Last year’s anniversary celebration drew around 300 people, according to elementz.org, where you can also find more info on the center and purchase advanced tickets.
• The Madison Theater Band Challenge, a local “battle of the bands” competition, is approaching the finish line. This Saturday, the Covington music venue presents the Challenge finals. Up for the grand prize (which includes $2,500 in cash, recording time and a spot opening for a national act at the Madison) are the Anderson Ferry Band, KillBox, Nevele, Orchid In The Ivy, Peridoni, Rio & The Ramblers and The Dugongs. The finals kick off at 7:30 p.m. and the event is open to all ages. Admission is $12. (madisontheaterbandchallenge.com)