Guitarist and composer Ben Vaughn has obviously listened long and hard to early-’60s exotica, TV themes, spy films, spaghetti Westerns, and cocktail music. His Designs in Music—a highly arranged, richly textured collection of original instrumentals—manages to pay tribute to guitarists Hank Marvin, Duane Eddy, and Vinnie Bell, and composers Martin Denny and Ennio Morricone, without being utterly derivative. Hearing the peppy themes and doo-ahh vocals, one might be tempted to write off Vaughn’s music as kitsch. But a careful listening reveals a depth in the orchestration and writing that’s totally AWOL in modern pop. Vaughn’s guitar palette runs the gamut from spanky, tremolo-drenched lines to moody jazz-noir, and his vintage tones are always cleverly framed by various combinations of strings, brass, reeds, old-school analog synth and combo organ, harp, percussion, pedal steel, and wordless singing. Going on a road trip? These quirky sounds will make a perfect soundtrack. (Soundstage 15 Records).
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