BY ADRIAN SILVAS
Vintage Trouble has returned to take us to church with their third studio album Heavy Hymnal. The Troublemakers, a nickname bestowed on them affectionately by their fans, hail from Hollywood, CA. and have toured extensively around the globe, opening for acts such as The Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, The Who, and AC/DC.
It’s fitting that the band would open for these artists given that they seem to personify some of the best and most vital qualities of these groups. Vintage Trouble’s sound is influenced by R&B, classic rock, and soul from the 60’s, but their approach isn’t simply relied on copying and pasting the past. The band does an excellent job at reviving and adding a contemporary attitude that fits perfectly in today’s landscape of music and creates a new feel of their own.
Lead singer Ty Taylor conveys an unapologetic style and swagger that gives the band its character. Guitarist Nalle Colt produces a raw sound to accompany the quality of Taylor’s loud cries and whispers and all the while, drummer Richard Danielson stands on his own at times but always keeps the beat fluid with the rest of the group while bassist Rick Barrio Dill provides us with a new layer of depth in each song. Watching them on live shows such as Letterman and Craig Ferguson, you’ll see all of this work in motion; the energy this band brings to the table, and a sound that is both classic and new.
The band fires on all cylinders right out of the gate with the first song “Who I Am.” The first few seconds of the song begin with a bit of finger-picking but immediately explodes on the scene with every instrument on display to the max. Taylor wastes no time with his rapid-fire delivery with each member of the band playing at their full potential, while still working as a collective to the strain of his voice.
The first part of the album maintains this style until the middle with “Not the One,” which feels like a palate cleanser until the main entree arrives. Heavy Hymnal begins to take a different shape once we reach “The Love That Once Lingered,” featuring guest vocals from Lady Blackbird. This track brings everything to a melodic standstill. Taylor sings in a different tone, one that pleads and shows vulnerability, compared to the first part, which displayed their confidence and declaration of who they are as a band and what this album will offer.
Sharp chords and heavy hitting are replaced with long echoes vibrating from their instruments. All are still present, aware, and play accordingly to this poignant ballad. Lady Blackbirds’ whiskey-soaked voice contrasts perfectly with Taylor’s honest reflection of a love that used to be. Her delivery gives the listener an image of a seasoned fighter, one who has felt the pain that the singer is going through, and reassures with their synchronized chants that he will live to see another day and another love may come along sooner or later.
The timbre is set after this and the mood of the album deals less with aggressive playing, and loud singing, and reaches a much more tender part of the soul. The next song “Alright Alright” takes the torch from the former track and runs as fast as it can; this melody is smooth and restrained. The album then directs us to stand up again and reintroduces the soulful R&B it promised initially with “Holla!,”
The final track “Repeating History” shifts the tone of the album one last time. The members retreat into a consistent groove, although not as booming as in the beginning, now the music is gentle and is still able to pack the familiar emotional punches we ate with the few first songs like “Feelin’ On” and “You Already Know.” The lyrics explore making the same mistakes and repeating the sins of the past. Having to deal with ourselves and the consequences of our actions or inactions. Examples of heartache and pain are constant throughout the song, and Taylor preaches in a way that makes the listener ponder whether they have learned anything while on this journey with them. Heavy Hymnal is a prime example of a band that understands who they are and how they’ve mastered communicating a clear message through their art and skills. They cover many subjects in this album like love, loss, hope, anger, and reflection, to name but a few.
All of these subjects and emotions are accompanied by instrumentation that never lets you feel alone and picks you up with its bluesy guitar playing, drums echoing like thunder above you, and a baseline that keeps a steady pace. Heavy Hymnal lives up to it’s name. You might not go as far as to call it a profoundly religious experience but if you sit down, tune in, and let Vintage Trouble take over for the next 37 minutes you will find yourself feeling like you just left mass.
Vintage Trouble is scheduled to perform at The Independent in San Francisco on September 10th.