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Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans – Traveling Fool

ManHatTone 2011

15 tracks; 60.14 minutes

Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans return with their third CD. The New York based band gained a lot of positive reviews and airplay with their second effort “Stuck With The Blues” last year and that success has resulted in a quick return to the studio, again with Dave Gross in the producer’s chair. That in itself is interesting as Dave is a busy guy, with his own band, playing bass with Bob Margolin on the last Blues Cruise and producing and playing on Gina Sicilia’s recent CD. Dave’s guitar skills are not required here, but he does play some upright bass on a few tracks and his colleague in the recording and mixing studio, VD King, plays guitar on two tracks. The other notable guest is guitarist Bobby Radcliff who plays on four tracks this time round, doubling his output on “Stuck With The Blues”, as well as providing some enthusiastic sleeve notes. The core band remains Brad on guitar and vocals, Margey Peters on bass and occasional fiddle, Arne Englund on piano and occasional guitar and Bill Rankin on drums. Jim Davis and Matt Cowan play sax and clarinet on most tracks.

Brad is the main composer with eight solo compositions as well as two in partnership with Margey Peters. Margey has one solo composition and there are four covers. The style is varied but if I had to attempt to categorise Brad’s music the word ‘retro’ might come to mind. We get a good deal of 50s and 60s rocking blues, some jump tunes and some with a folky feel, but the keynote here is fun. The beat never lets up, the piano pounds and the saxes honk out the riffs, so it’s real foot tapping material that invites the listener to dance.
Some highlights for me included the title track “Traveling Fool” which kicks off the CD at a blistering pace. The piano and saxes on this track are just superb and Brad’s vocal has just the right world-weary tone to convey the lyric, a classic tale of the musician out on the road, missing his girl. This is also one of the tracks with Bobby Radcliff on lead guitar. In similar rocking vein is “Don’t Take My Cadillac” with a storming tenor sax solo and nice harmony vocals from bassist Margey Peters. A complete contrast is their take on Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues”, a song that has been covered by a whole host of people ever since it was first recorded by the author in 1928. The first solo is beautifully played on clarinet, an instrument typical of the 20s – just imagine how Sidney Bechet might have sounded if the recording techniques of today had been available to him! - followed by a wonderfully relaxed piano solo. Again, Brad’s vocal is ideally suited to the song, as well as his slide guitar playing.

The pairing of clarinet and fiddle is also an effective way of getting that old time sound, very effectively done on “Glad Rags” and the cover of Sonny Terry’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes” which comes across as a country hoedown! However, my favourite track has to be the rocking “Without Moolah” in which Brad asks the age-old question that concerns most guys – will she still love me if I don’t have any money! The dual tenor and baritone saxes are back, both taking a short solo, with the piano twinkling and Brad’s guitar sending out some stinging notes. A short track, but an absolute treat!

I have only mentioned some of the songs here, but frankly you could put any track on the player and enjoy it. This is a fun CD and comes highly recommended.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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