Vintage #18 – Grit | Album Review

Vintage #18 – Grit

Self-produced CD

11 songs : 51 minutes

Don’t be misled by the name. Vintage #18 is a relatively new group making its recording debut here as it delivers a collection of nine originals and two covers with an old-school soul-blues feel.

Influenced by the catalog of Stax and Chess records — and Koko Taylor and Etta James in particular, the band is an aggregation of veteran musicians who got together in 2013 and is based out of Washington, D.C. Vintage #18 is fronted by Robbin Kapsalis, a Chicago native who grew up in Atlanta. Kapsalis’ vocal range is fairly limited, but that doesn’t get in the way whatsoever. She’s a polished vocalist with a deep, sultry alto delivery.

The band’s led by Bill Holter, a guitarist with a pleasing, unhurried style. A dealer in vintage instruments whose background includes jazz and blues-rock influences, he’s worked with a wide variety of artists, ranging from the Bay City Rollers to the Prime Suspects and Monster Fun Package. They’re backed by bassist/keyboard player/slide guitarist Mark Chandler, who’s spent time with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Charlie Sayles, Sleepy LaBeef and The Coasters, and Alex Kuldell, who’s career includes lengthy service time as a military drummer.

Funded partially through a Kickstarter campaign, Grit kicks off with “Diamonds Are Optional,” a funky stop-time love song with an old-time feel delivered atop a steady, repetitive guitar hook. It’s the first of three originals to open the set. Chandler’s bass run introduces “Is This Too Good?” as Robbin wonders whether she and her new lover are truly destined to be with each other. Holter’s brief guitar runs have a slight psychedelic feel.

Next up, “Love Hangover” is a new walking blues, not the Diana Ross tune of the same name. It continues the thoughts expressed in the previous number with the singer still experiencing the afterglow of a night of romance. It picks up speed for a lengthy guitar solo before dropping back to the opening pace. Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles” gets a slow blues feel before the pace quickens for “Circles,” a plea for help in finding a new direction, and ratchets down again for “Pieces,” a bittersweet memory of the best part of a failed romance.

“Just Got Back From Baby’s,” first recorded in 1971 by ZZ Top and featuring Chandler, follows before four more originals follow. “Poor Me” is a slow soul-blues lament about the speedy end of a love affair, while the rocker “Remember” recalls the way things used to be. The uptempo “Good Eye” is delivered atop a regimented beat as Robbin sings about keeping one eye on her current guy while searching for another man with the other. The steady tempo “Circles Down Home” brings the set to a close as it describes seeing the light of change shining through despite living a repetitive life.

Available through iTunes and Amazon, Grit is a solid debut. The material is both fresh and comfortably familiar. It’ll be interesting to hear what Vintage #18 has to say going forward.

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