The name Willa Vincitore didn’t ring a bell, until I heard her voice. I remember her singing on another album under the name Willa McCarthy, and while the name was new to me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that voice.
Once I had that sorted out, I had to go do a little more research to make sure I had my facts straight. She’s still working out of the Hudson Valley, and Better Days is in fact, her debut album.
If you are new to Vincitore, let me try to prepare you, she can sing like an angel and a demon. She’s versatile and sings jazz, blues, R&B, and soul and somehow makes them all sound wonderful. And since she’s billed the album under Willa And Company, you can be assured that she’s fostered a creative environment that will include input for all the great musicians.
Aside from her on the vocals, she is joined by Chris Vitarello on guitars; Scott Milici on keys and vocals; co-producer Brandon Morrison on bass and vocals; co-producer Lee Falco on drums, percussion, and vocals; and a horn section consisting of Jay Collins on sax and arrangements and Reggie Pittman on trumpet and flugelhorn. Special guests include Pete Hop on acoustic guitar on Caroline and Chris O’Leary on harmonica and vocals on Hey Little Sister.
Vincitore wrote all of the dozen songs on the album.
Vincitore starts off with a cool swinging number, Love Looks Good On Me, that’s full of sass and brass and it sets the table for what promises to be a fun album. I heard her sing on one of Chris O’Leary’s CDs, but now that she’s the focus, I have to tell you, she’s got an amazing voice. It’s bold and confident and could wake you up out of a coma!
She follows up with a funky number, Stop, Drop And Roll. The horn section adds their magic and Milici’s keyboards are very cool. For a few minutes I was having a ‘70’s musical flashback. Vincitore’s got a soul backbone to go with the swing of the opening track. Yeah, she’s got some surprises up her sleeve…
Hooked On You starts out with some quiet intensity and builds nicely. It’s more sweet soul and Vincitore proves that she can handle soul with the best of them. In her capable hands each song is crafted into a mesmerizing adventure. Listen for Jay Collins’ beautiful sax playing over the backing vocals. Gorgeous.
Chris Vitarello’s guitar and Chris O’Leary’s harp open up the blues number Hey Little Sister. Vincitore turns into a belter on this song and delivers in a big way. She unleashes such a powerful voice that it makes it look like she was just toying with us on the previous tracks. Damn, she can sing, and her band is just as tight as they can get.
Next up is the title track, Better Days. Falco’s percussion opens with the other instruments coming in before ushering in Vincitore’s vocals. It’s a solid ballad and her voice starts off softly before adding a stronger edge. She has such a variety of styles that make up her vocal approach and I’m very impressed with how she handles each one with ease and style. She definitely has style!
Milici’s keys open Caroline in a slow labored manner. The lyrics are very dark and mysterious and Vincitore’s delivery makes you pause to listen to just what it is she’s saying. This is an unusual song for the album, but it reveals a different side of her songwriting and vocal delivery. I might have to listen to this one a few more times to be able to find all the angles in this beautifully nuanced song.
Vitarello’s choppy guitar opens Look What We’ve Done, followed by Vincitore’s vocals delivered in a whisper. She builds her voice up before unleashing it with power. It’s a different kind of soulful number but her voice really takes charge.
The next song, Mama Needs Some Company, starts off deep in electrified swamp country before Vincitore takes over on vocals. This is a very cool song that makes me think that she could just might be able to share the same stratosphere that the greats have occupied before her. She’s got a great approach to the blues!
She brings out the funk for Crazy Man. Vincitore channels her inner soul goddess to deliver this number. And Vitarello is right there with her dropping some great guitar riffs. I would really like to see them do this one live, I have a feeling it is a big audience pleaser.
More soulful funk follows with Say What. The horns open up and Vincitore follows with some inspired vocals. She’s handled jazz, blues, R&B, funk, and soul with ease on the album and proves that she’s ready for a bigger stage. I can only hope that now that she’s the one in the spotlight, she finds those new audiences.
Opposite Of Lonely opens with some sweet jazzy fills and Vincitore purrs her way through the opening. I really love this song a lot as it feels like she is really opening up and sharing more of her emotions with the audience. Pittman’s trumpet adds a sad, plaintive tone and makes this sound like a perfect late night number, whenever you play it…
The album comes to a close with Demons. Vitarello’s swamp fueled guitar opens this powerful number and Vincitore releases her vocals in a controlled burn. They keep the instruments to a bare minimum, relying on the steel guitar and gut-wrenching vocals to make this song one to remember. It’s a great way to end the album.
Willa Vincitore is a great singer in a field populated by good singers. She has the tone and range that can make you fall in love, get angry, or weep from the sheer emotion of the song. She’s also a very savvy songwriter who has crafted these songs perfectly to suit her vocal approach.
I think Better Days is a prophetic title as I predict that there will be many better days ahead for this talented woman, and I can’t wait to hear what she will do in the future.
In the meantime, be sure to check her out at http://www.willaandcompany.com/ and pay attention to where she will be touring. I’m hoping that now that the album is out, she’ll be out more promoting it. If she plays a club or festival near you, please send me a report and share it with your fellow music lovers!