Brad Vickers & His VESTAPOLITANS - ‘Le Blues Hot’
20 songs; 69 minutes 43 secs; Meritable
Styles: Down Home Blues, Rag-Time, Skiffle, Hokum, jazz-blues with slide guitar, electric and upright bass, fiddle, clarinet, tenor sax and percussion
If you’re looking for something a little different than what you might typically have in your blues collection, ‘Le Blues Hot’ would be a good consideration. It’s a skillful delivery of the many forms of American roots music, all the while giving you an enjoyable education in music ethnocology. Eleven of the 20 tracks are originals.
The line up includes Brad Vickers on guitar and vocals; Margey Peters on electric bass, fiddle, percussion & vocals; Jim Davis on clarinet & tenor sax; Barry Harrison on drums and percussion; and special guest Dave Gross on guitar & upright bass; VD King provides percussion on the final track.
Brad has recorded with some of the best in the industry, like Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin; and sax/clarinet player Jim Davis brings his veteran connections through Hubert, Paul Oscher while drummer Barry is known for his work with Johnny & Shemekia Copeland. The entire list of credits is quite lengthy and impressive, so be sure to study the CD jacket!
Each track of ‘Le Blues Hot’ ties in together as the musicians showcase their personal zones with playful doses of everything from original old-timey blues, swing, jazz, ragtime, skiffle and hokum. Skiffle and Hokum? Here’s a little enlightenment:
Skiffle is a type of folk music with jazz, blues and country influences, usually using homemade instruments like a washboard or kazoo, for example. It’s similar to jug band music, first popular in the U.S. in the early 1900’s in New Orleans and represented here in Tracks #1, #6, and #7 “Freight Car”, “Where Can My Baby Be” and “Hesitation Blues”. Hokum, by the way, is a song type that uses analogies or euphemisms to make sexual innuendos. It goes back to early blues recordings, like Dinah Washington’s Long John Blues…
I’m a little surprised there are so many tracks here, 20, so it could be challenging to find the time to get through them all in one listen. But if you can’t, then just work your way through them over time; your favorites will definitely start to emerge.
My track highlights include #2 “Baby Please Don’t Go” which delivers that familiar Delta blues style with rustic but sufficiently appropriate fiddle work by Margery Peters. The fiddle scratches out the words “Baby Please Don’t Go” with Brad’s guitar answering back. Dave Gross on upright bass contributes his share of the Delta spirit. This is a very nice rendition with just enough hint of slide.
#3 is “Dogs Don’t Sing”--Brad carries the tune in this traditional song and story with just enough credibility to make you believe he’s really got the blues so bad because, “…I’ve been your dog baby since I’ve been your man.”
#4 is “I Don’t Want To” with Brad and Margery--I don’t what it is about these two folks when Margery brings in the harmony to Brad’s vocals, but it works. I get these visions of an old timey couple participating at a neighborhood hoedown, just for kicks-- unpretentious, keeping it real, making it credible.
My favorite out of all 20 tracks is #10 “Our Real Good Thing”—grab your favorite adult beverage then sit back and listen to the words in this playful cute song. You’ll be able to sing along the first time without even knowing the words because it’s simple yet cleverly written. Brad and Margery, again on vocals, somehow make it work…this one will put a big ole smile on your face!
I enjoyed the band’s personal interpretation of the familiar standard #11 “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. With Track #14 “Hands Off”, Margery’s solo with her unique voice and style just goes to prove you don’t have to be a Whitney, Celine or Mariah to get your point and story across as an entertainer.
Another personal favorite is #16, “Gonna Quit You”. There’s great lyrics by Brad, like ‘haven’t been to college but I sure been to school…I’m wise as a hoot owl, don’t treat me like no mule, I gotta quit ya baby before I be your fool’…Margey harmonizes just enough to add delightful layers to an already catchy song…”you can lead me like a horse and feed me like a hog’ gotta quit ya before I be your dog’.
Track #18 is “Mississippi Shadows”, where the violin themed start reminded me of the Jaws theme but then quickly took me to a Clarksdale Juke Joint with the local musicians and characters we all love there (although, I can say I’ve never heard or seen a clarinet in a Clarksdale juke joint, but it works here).
If it’s a slick high tech studio production and recording you’re looking for, this may not be the CD for you. However, if you’re into the house band sound and styles of bluesy jazz and skiffle root music, then be sure to pick this one up for your collection.
Belinda Foster is a Columnist and Contributing Writer for Greenville SC Magazine “Industry Mag” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She currently books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and support of live blues root music and history. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report can be found on line at www.industrymag.net