ManHat Tone Records
15 tracks / 47:31
What exactly is a Vestapolitan, anyway? Vestapol (one of many spellings) is an open guitar tuning and the term is commonly used to describe the relationship between different chords. Brad Vickers uses this type of tuning, and he also was looking for a cool name that started with V for his band. It looks like he solved his dilemma, as Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans certainly is catchy! Fortunately this group has a lot more going on than just a clever name, as their unique blend of American roots and blues is both entertaining and enthralling.
Brad, a Long Island native, is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist with impressive credentials. He has played with Bo Diddley, Hubert Sumlin, Odetta, Chuck Berry, and Jimmy Rogers, not to mention appearing on two of Pinetop Perkins’ Grammy-nominated albums. He has put out five albums of his own with his Vestapolitans since 2008 and the latest, That’s What They Say, is the best of the bunch. Vickers was joined on this project by a core crew of Margey Peters on vocals, bass, and fiddle, Bill Rankin on drums, and Dave Gross on the double bass, banjo, mandolin, percussion and piano. There were a lot more people involved in the studio, as you will soon see.
The album starts out with Tampa Red’s “Seminole Blues” and the trio of Vickers, Peters, and Rankin give this song a lovely acoustic treatment with jangly bottleneck guitar and a backbeat drums. Then the band launches into the traditional “Don’t You Love Your Daddy No More,” which was taught to Brad by Leadbelly. Matt Cowan and Jim Davis brought their sax and clarinet in on this one, which give it a cool New Orleans ragtime feel. Brad takes the lead vocals on both of these, and his voice is mellow with a laidback drawl.
After these openers, the remaining songs (a baker’s dozen!) are originals that were written by Vickers and Peters. These two have mature song-writing skills, and they penned clever lyrics to go along with the fantastic music that is heard throughout.
It sound like they had a lot of fun putting together That’s What They Say. There is a bit of Chuck Berry in “Another Lonesome Road” which is a neat duet with Brad and Margey on vocals, and a little yakety sax from Jim Davis. They also has a blast with “Mama’s Cookin’,” and Peters’ litany of international treats will get your mouth watering as she is accompanied by Davis and Matt Cowan on sax and Little Mikey on backing vocals. Both of these tunes are timeless, and sound like they could have been recorded any time in the past sixty years.
The band also cut an awesome ragtime track, “21st Century Rag,” which provides Margey and Charles Burnham the opportunity to bring out their fiddles. Like the title suggests, this song recounts how the things we have become used to are falling by the wayside. This is a funny contrast as this song has a definite old-time feel to it with its richly acoustic tone, including nice round double bass from Dave Gross.
One of the standout tracks is the a capella song, “Fightin’,” and you will find that it is certainly the most serious of the bunch. The lyrics are a wonderful blend of gospel harmonies from Vickers, Peters, and Mikey Junior, and they are a poignant conviction of the terrible things that people do and the way we treat each other nowadays.
Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans have a winner with That’s What They Say, thanks to solid songwriting and their excellent performance in the studio. If you are a fan of roots or Americana music it would be in your best interests to check it out for yourself and pick up a copy if it strikes your fancy. If you want to see their live show you are in luck if you are on the east coast of the United States. The band has plenty of shows coming up in the Philadelphia/New York/New Jersey area as well as in Florida. Go to their website for details on shows and how to buy their CD.