Danny Vaughn is best known for his vocals in Tyketto, a band who have enjoyed quite a renaissance in the best few years.
Blessed with a wonderfully toned voice we have here a man at the top of his game. A storyteller willing to tell the listener tales of sadness and hope, of history and love. I think it is fair to say that you know what to expect with a Danny Vaughn or Tyketto album, big riffs, power ballads, and passion.
So when I first played this album I was knocked sideways from the start. This is obviously an album which Danny needed to write, full of songs, as stated on his amazing recent live gigs which had been started years, even decades ago which needed finishing.
It is interesting to hear that Danny is so proud to have been embraced by the folk, blues, and country set after producing an album full of surprises and fun.
We start off with a song about Ireland and the changes seen, from prosperity to poverty, issues which are clearly important here. ‘The Shadow of King John’ has a Gaelic feel with a fun singalong chorus.
‘Man or Machine’ is next up, with an almost Bon Jovi feel with a slow build-up, building the power with some neat guitar picking throughout. This is a song which showcases Vaughn’s vocal prowess. He shows the way in using his voice as another instrument.
‘The Missouri Kid’ tells the story of a man revered and looked at with awe with his magical hands and card playing. The song takes us from triumph until we find out this man had been beaten and bruised and had lost everything. Another song full of understated power both in its imagery and subtle music this is another triumph, in fact, a song which turns into a small cinematic experience. You can almost replay the tale in your head such is the clever use of words married to a country-rock feel. The biggest compliment I can give is that this track would not feel out of place on a Springsteen album.
‘The Good Life’ starts off slowly – then takes the listener into a song with Hammond organ, fiddles and bluegrass feel to the drums. We then change pace and enter the world of gospel punctuated with a choir until the end.
As said this album surprises, challenges and triumphs throughout.
Other highlights include ‘Black Crow’ which is stripped down to just guitar and vocals, almost smoky in their delivery. This is a song which again gives atmosphere throughout and one which is perfectly suited to Danny. This is already a crowd favourite live with just and guitar and the subtle band additions make it another interesting track.
‘Monkeys With Money and Guns’ is a rock standard workout, with some mightily clever words, and for me, I could see this being a song which allows us to understand Danny’s roots. It’s a track which Joe Walsh would be proud of. A song which would be an American standard in the days of FM radio stations created to allow lengthy journeys seem so much shorter. A song which would blend in with other such genre-based songs but is brought alive by its clean modern production.
‘Point the Way’ for me is challenging. Even Danny describes it as “ The Weird Song” and that’s about it. Nearly spoken in parts it is a track which is either going to be played and played or skipped. Brave, different and yet fitting for the middle of the album. It dares you not to listen and dares you to think outside of the box. And that is a good thing.
This whole album is best listened to with the lyric sheet opened. Danny is telling wonderful stories which could be overlooked if the listener doesn’t take the time to sit and listen properly. He is a songwriter at the top of his game. Upbeat songs tell tales of people disappearing without giving a reason which makes the content more compelling. Often writers think that sad tales which could touch the hearts of many need to be maudlin but Vaughn proves this to be wrong. He tears up the rule book and some.
My favourite track is ‘Seven Bells’. Danny explained on stage that he was heavily influenced after visiting the Liverpool Cathedral which he believes is the biggest in the world. He wanted to tell the tales of sailors worshipping at the church after safely returning home after being at sea. This is simply beautiful. A triumph both live and on this CD. It is a track which would rightly win over a new audience. A catchy chorus which once in your head will caress your brain and take you to a better place. It’s that good. I saw pride and emotions when this was presented to a captivated audience. A stunning arrangement which was influenced by Sting’s tales of the North East.
The album finishes with a song dedicated to Danny’s beloved mother who died last year and it is a fitting tribute to her. She will be smiling down on her son.
So did I enjoy the album on the first play? In places, but it is so different, so engrossing and challenging that I needed to persevere and I’m glad I did. Play loud, concentrate and enjoy a triumph. This album crosses genres, makes you think, maybe shed a tear and smile at the same time.