LIVE: Vintage Trouble @ the Hollow Bar + Kitchen, 9/28/14
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Some would say the only thing more audacious than playing a club in Albany on a Sunday night is attending such a show the night before an open house, but hey, every night’s a school night when you’re a teacher. I needed a break from grading essays and quizzes, writing umpteen college recommendations and watching the Oakland Raiders wear out my allegiance
over leftovers. I’d read of Vintage Trouble yet not heard them, but promoter Greg Bell, a former teacher himself, had told me awhile back to witness their greatness for myself. I had to go.
A good-sized crowd of like-minded rocking soul and blues aficionados and folks eager to hear (and drink) something potent were in attendance at downtown Albany’s Hollow Bar + Kitchen. A good number had traveled more than two hours for the show. A couple from Connecticut even told me they had become “Troublemakers” the first time they had seen the band.
Some shows you just will never forget. This was one of them.
Before Vintage Trouble’s set, the house sound system was reverberating with an array of 45s being spun by Tom “Papa” Ray a.k.a. The Soul Selector. Perched up in the balcony of the soundboard area, the St. Louis-based DJ showcased classic hits and b-sides by Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Bobby Rush, Ike & Tina Turner, Dave Bartholomew, Sam & Dave, Tyrone Davis, Jimmy Hughes, Lowell Fulson, the Animals, the Rascals, James Brown, Booker T & the MGs, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Little Johnny Taylor and others.
Warm vinyl sounds filled The Hollow for over an hour, and I couldn’t help but shout to the beautiful red-headed bartender, Jill, “I think this crowd is going to be in for something great tonight.” She nodded in agreement.
Taking the stage at 9pm to the fading out of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” Vintage Trouble had that raring-to-go look about them. “High Times” began as an a cappella piece, then flat out rocked. Decked out in threads that Al Green might have worn on “Soul Train,” Ty Taylor, the charismatic lead singer, exhorted the crowd to join in the party atmosphere. A wave of clapping fans galvanized the introduction of “Blues Hand Me Down,” the first cut on The Bomb Shelter Sessions, with guitarist Nalle Colt riffing like a maniac over a push-pull rhythm by Rick Barrio Dill (bass) and Richard Danielson (drums). The call and response with the crowd on “Nancy Lee,” a song inspired by Taylor’s family’s North Carolina roots, was astounding – seriously, who knew that Sunday night Albany had such Saturday night vocal chops? – and garnered some high-fives from Taylor during a Stax-like groove of “Low Down Dirty Dog.” Reminiscent of Wilson Pickett’s take on Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” “Pelvis Pusher” lived up to its title with a stomping beat, wicked guitar runs and bass grooves galore.
The energy did not lag one bit when the band sat down for an acoustic mini-set. “Thanks for being so insistent on making sure people hear this music!” declared Taylor before a moving “Never Mine,” a prime cut from the just-released The Swing House Acoustic Sessions EP. “Another Man’s Words” called to mind the country soul of Dan Penn, with fine harmony vocals equaled by the thrill of the crowd singing back the chorus without any prompting. “You Save Me” drew the audience even closer to the stage, setting them up for the soul-shaking “Still and Always Will,” which featured a false ending that worked to perfection.
An electric version of “Lo and Behold” brimmed with Latin rhythms; Colt seemed to be channeling Otis Rush and Peter Green in his tone and attack. “Here’s a song [“Run Like a River”] for those who’ll realize that their fire has just begun!” shouted Taylor over a slide guitar introduction and Cherokee drum beat. The Hollow reverberated with soul clapping as Taylor made his way though the dancers and ascended to the balcony to wild shouts of approval before wending his way back several minutes later drenched in sweat.
“While we’re talking about rejuvenating spirits,” exhorted Taylor. “We’ve all got friends so heavy who are caught in a hole–but we know they can shine brighter. We are here to lend a hand!” The gloom and doom of the 21st century seemed to subside during “Nobody Told Me,” a riveting performance by Taylor that easily brought comparisons to Bobby Womack or Syl Johnson in their ecstatic prime. “Before the Tear Drops” conjured an after-hours juke joint break-up scenario, while “Strike Your Light” upped the ante, a storming blues-rocker that had Dill and Danielson in rhythmic overdrive and Taylor back out on the floor, mingling in the ebb and flow of dancers.
A two-minute ovation had the band back out for an encore, “Total Strangers,” a howling rocker that inspired more than one reprise. Setting aside their instruments and microphones, the musicians exited through the crowd, who showed their appreciation by chanting the song’s indelible hook and swarming the merchandise table for an hour afterwards.
Expect Vintage Trouble to be back in Albany soon – the L.A.-based band passed the audition, as did their growing legion of Capital Region fans a.k.a. Troublemakers.
VINTAGE TROUBLE SET LIST
Blues Hand Me Down
Low Down Dirty Dog
Another Man’s Words
You Save Me
Still and Always Will
Lo and Behold
Run Like a River
Nobody Told Me
Before the Tear Drops
Strike Your Light