Holt Vaughn Releases “These Songs, Vol. 2”

The sheer breadth of diversity Holt Vaughn draws from writing, recording, and performing his songs separates him from many peers working today. It’s just the beginning, however. Vaughn began his professional musical journey as a long-haired budding guitar hero with his amplifier cranked to 11, but he’s followed another path for many years. The fruits of that path are obvious from the first when you hear his new album These Songs, Vol. 2 and it’s never one note. There’s a familiar musical foundation underlying everything Vaughn does, we’re never lost in alien territory with him, but he never settles for long on a particular sound.

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He’s quite talented using time-tested musical vehicles in fresh ways. “Got to Pray (Satan He Don’t Rest)” is a dyed in the wool blues guitar romp, but Vaughn’s lyrical content transforms it into far more than lowest common denominator fare. His message is Christian through and through without ever coming off heavy-handed. It may be a little incongruous for some listeners to hear these words surrounded by such firepower. Vaughn’s lead guitar just after the one minute mark is especially fiery.

“Muddlety” marks the album’s first example of a tendency setting Vaughn’s releases apart from similar artists. He embraces instrumentals in a way few do circa 2022 and approaches them in unusual fashion. Artists who do turn out semi-frequent instrumentals often present them as atmospheric pieces rather than standalone songs in their own right, but this isn’t the case for Vaughn. “Muddlety” benefits from outstanding structure and the chemistry between Vaughn and second acoustic guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Keaggy’s appearance illustrates another feature of the album. Both These Songs release make use of guest musicians, the first much more so than this release, and it reads like a virtual who’s-who’s of the Christian Contemporary and gospel music community. Vicki Hampton’s backing vocals are an important part of five out of the album’s ten tracks, for instance, and particularly complementary during “I Don’t Know Why (You Treat Me Like You Do)”. It revisits the bluesy inclinations scattered throughout the release. Jason Webb’s flashes of organ and piano playing drops dollops of soul and rollicking attitude into a song certain to be a favorite for many.

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He duets with singer/songwriter and guitarist Will McFarlane on the gorgeous “Good Company”. It’s one of the album’s major works and the patient development of its strengths, more cumulative than in the listener’s face, helps it reach even higher. The mix of acoustic and electric guitar is always a potent blend and Vaughn understands how to do it. His aforementioned love for instrumentals reaches its improbable height with the album finale. “(A Not So) Silent Night” is one of the album’s longer tracks and affords Vaughn and his collaborators an opportunity to stretch out. It’s never self-indulgent though. It closes the release with a track that’s every bit as much as a song as any you’ll ever hear. Holt Vaughn’s These Songs, Vol. 2 proves, among other things, you don’t always need a singer to sing along.

Rachel Townsend

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