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Nick Moss - Here I Am
It’s probably appropriate Nick Moss titles his latest release Here I Am. He seems comfortable in the shift in the musical direction that began with the previous venture Privileged.
Known primarily for digging deep into the wellspring of Chicago Blues, Moss seeks a stylistic departure to avoid labels that can pigeonhole him. And while some long-time fans are not too happy for this radical change, Nick is simply following his bliss of where the music will take him.
However if you were happy with what Nick started out on with Privileged, the music on Here I Am will suit you just fine. If anything, it rocks just as hard and Moss’ guitar work is sizzling as ever.
As he did on Privileged, Nick pays tribute to the bands of yesteryear that were influential in starting his journey towards the blues. Elements of Cream, Free, Bad Company and The Allman Brothers bubble in the tracks. It’s an approach that’s daring and Moss sees it fit to lift him out of any musical ruts.
He wastes no time in getting down to serious business. Opening track “Why You So Mean?” is a boogie-based rocker while John Lee Hooker influenced careens like a runaway train going off the rails. If Moss wants to immediately grab an audiences’ attention, he should consider opening up with this number at his gigs. Basically this tune fits the mold of arena-sized rock when true riffage ruled in its iconic time and place.
You would be happy if Nick stayed on this musical course. But he does see fit to slow down things. While following number “Blood Runs” isn’t as dangerous as the preceding tune, Travis Reeds’ keyboard work bolsters “Blood Runs” into a moderate rocker with gospel shading.
Patrick Seals’ short energetic drum intro opens the title track into a Zeppelin-styled stomper coming from the Physical Graffiti era. The lyrics smack of defiance towards anyone not understanding Moss’ take on things. Reeds’ and Moss’ solos propel this song further into the stratosphere with the rest of the band crashing behind them.
Using Michael Ledbetter as a backing vocalist adds flavor to some tracks like “Candy Nation.” But the shiny hours belong to back-up singers Jennifer Evans and Shuree Rivera who guide “It’ll Turn Around” into friendly radio airplay territory. Reeds’ churchy organ stands out to take things to church with the song’s bruised gospel soul coated by Moss’ greasy slide work.
While the production credits belong to Nick, you can tell how he pays attention to how each player stands out in the mix. It’s not all about him dazzling with guitar virtuosity. The emphasis is on song presentation and making a band ensemble gel tightly without excessive showboating.
A trace of Hendrix’ Band of Gypsies turns up in “Long Haul Jockey” with its rocked up grooves. There’s no denying Moss likes to push material beyond time-honored marks. The tunes “Caught By Surprise” and “Katie Ann (Sleight Return)” stretch to nearly ten minutes in length and stand a good chance for being embraced by the jam-band community although musically you can over-do a good thing by excessive vamping through lyrical content and exercising musical chops that go beyond a normal attention span. In these tunes, Moss displays a penchant for psychedelic exploration that Hendrix himself would admire. Especially in “Katie Ann” with its hypnotic spidery guitar lines.
Only in instrumental “Sunday Get Together” does Nick seem to touch base with blues roots as it echoes with a live feel as if it was recorded at Buddy Guy’s Legends.
It’s no wonder this musical package received a strong endorsement from Jimmy Thackery. Moss has a journeyman attitude of exploring the zone and visiting areas where his colleagues don’t dare to venture.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.