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Greg Nagy - Fell Toward None

Big O Records/Vizztone

11 tracks/44:14

In sports, there is a commonly used term known as the “sophomore slump”. It refers to an athlete who has an impressive rookie season but fails to come close to matching that level of performance in their second season. A young athlete can find it difficult to deal with the higher level of expectations and added attention that comes with from exceeding expectations in the first season.

Greg Nagy certainly seemed to be positioned to fall victim to the dreaded curse. His first solo recording, Walk the Fine Thin Line, garnered a nomination for a 2010 Blues Music Award in the Best New Artist Debut category in addition to getting plenty of critical acclaim. But fear not – on his new project, Nagy further develops his intoxicating blend of musical influences into a distinctive sound that is brimming with confidence.

Opening with a tune from the Freddie King catalog, “Pack It Up”, Nagy offers plenty of his expressive vocal style and cutting guitar licks while the Motor City Horns – Keith Kaminski on tenor & baritone sax, Mary Byerly & Bob Jensen on trumpet,John Rutherford on trombone - add some punctuation to the arrangement. The rousing tempo on “Wishing Well” serves as a launching pad for a wah-wah soaked guitar solo from the leader while the rhythm section of Jim Shaneberger on bass and Kevin Depree on drums never waver in their support. Nagy and Jim Alfredson, now part of the Janiva Magness Band, were members of the group Root Doctor out of Lansing, MI. Alfredson's original ballad, “I'll Know I'm Ready”, is a highlight as Nagy delivers an emotionally charged vocal over Alfredson's sensitive keyboard accompaniment.

The funky run-through of “Can't Take It No More” is another strong performance that echos the Root Doctor legacy with Nagy burning up his guitar fretboard on his closing solo. The Nagy/Alfredson tune, “Still Means the World to Me”, finds Nagy crying out his heartache over an unfaithful lover that he just can't let go. The horn section pumps up the arrangement on “Be With You” and Nagy responds with a soulful vocal that makes this track another highlight.

Two cuts feature the leader with just the rhythm section in support. “Facebook Mama” is a Nagy composition that finds him adopting the Stevie Ray Vaughan effects-laden guitar sound on a tune that takes a witty view of the social networking phenomenon. “Here Come My Baby” is taken at a rapid pace with the leader again demonstrating his impressive guitar skills. The brooding title track closes the disc. It expertly combines blues and soul into a haunting number that Nagy sings with just the right amount of tension and longing.

There are a number of musicians that have successfully blended some of the best elements of blues, soul and R&B music. You can add Nagy to the list with John Nemeth and Tad Robinson. He is on a roll and shows no sign of slowing down. One listen to this fine recording will be enough to convince you that Greg Nagy has manged to avoid the “sophomore slump” and take his artistry to a higher level.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.

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