Monday, November 13, 2017

Nick Black - Summer & Spring (2017)

Written by Bradley Johnson, posted by blog admin

Summer + Spring is the third album from vocalist and guitarist Nick Black and, taken as a follow up to his 2015 release Deep Blue, shows a musical artist growing by leaps and bounds during the interim. Much of this is likely attributable to the extensive live experience he’s continued to accumulate touring with his band and certainly there isn’t a single song on the new album that doesn’t sound, in some respects, like it was crafted with the stage at least partially in mind. Black handled production duties for the album with James Bennett and the mastering from Grammy winning engineer Brad Blackwood adds a glossy veneer to these great songs that makes them sparkle for both casual and obsessive fan alike. It’s a great album for Black’s existing fans and, as well, an excellent introduction for any newcomers chock full of accessible material.

Even the funkier aspects of the album are relatable. The sentiments in “Joy to the Girl” aren’t difficult to make a connection to as listeners and the musical fireworks generated by Black’s guitar and his co-musicians are substantial and, often, sound quite challenging as players. This is clearly a collection of musicians with a tight-knit connection and that chemistry is evident in every song. The more relaxed, mellower numbers like the title reflect the same chemistry deployed in a different way and his ability to shift gears as a guitarist, moving from the assertive sound of the opener to a more orchestral approach on the title song, reflects his growing versatility as a player. His increasing confidence as the band’s out front personality and band leader comes across as well on the entertaining romp “Nick at Night”, but it also reflects his depth of knowledge regarding the musical style’s traditions. He never sounds anything less than at home in the out front role for this band.

“Runaway Heart” might have a clich├ęd title, but the vocal and musical arrangement alike is soaked with such drama that it redeems any criticisms one might have. The guitar work is equally effective. There’s some straight up rock leanings in the track that he expands on with the next number “Neighbor”. The chin up striding quality that this song strikes makes for compelling listening and sounds confident throughout. The tandem of “When the Morning Comes” and “Lay It on the Line” find Nick Black working in full on funk mode and the latter song, in particular, leans heavily on his brilliant horn section for melodic drive. They are boisterous and energetic, but remain tasteful throughout. “When You Say Love” is a slow, soulful burner with a wonderful sound and unwinds at a warm, luxurious pace. The final track “The River” is a much more lo-fi affair than we are used to from Nick Black, but acoustic blues suits his voice well and it ends the album on a thoughtful, almost poetic, note. This is an important release for Nick Black as it sends him nearer and nearer to the mainstream while never losing sight of his roots.

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