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Niecie – Beyond The Surface

Ride The Tiger Records

10 tracks Time: 38.00

Artist Niece isn’t a household word. Very few people know of this woman. In general she is off the grid to the music community at large. Yet she deserves some recognition for the work she releases.

To label singer Niece as solely a blues artist is stretching things too thin. It may take a few listens to appreciate the release Beyond The Surface. Very little blues is found here. But in some essence, it does inform the music. It won’t garner a Blues Handy Award. It doesn’t mean it can’t slowly grow on you.

There aren’t too many original songs here. Her own song “Draw The Line” is a terrific opener and a great riff rocker that delves nicely into the electric church soul of “The Other Side.”

The studio/session musicians she employs all do their jobs well. Most of the names in the inner sleeve jacket might be unfamiliar to listeners. If there is a name that stands out its keyboardist Johnny Neel. When the Allman Brothers Band embarked on their reunion tour back in 1989, Neel was drafted to supplement the sound. It was a short stint and he soon found himself in demand to play on other recordings.

Background singer/percussionist Crystal Taliefero-Pratt meshes well with the songs and gives them a gospel coating particularly in a slow rock grooving “Rockin A Baby.”

Taking on the Isley Brother’s “Harvest For The World” is a bold endeavor as it smites of an American Idol approach. But it doesn’t mean the rest of the tracks will go in that fluffy direction. Niece once again turns up the flame in the original “Not No, Hell No” which may be one of the very few songs that follows a blueprint of blues with its shuffle approach. Which really makes you yearn that Niece would contribute more original songs to the cd. Her writing skills are solid and she can pull it off with no problem.

If the cut “Live For The Music” sounds familiar to some listeners it shouldn’t be shocking. For those who grew up listening to Bad Company , it’s a song written by their guitarist Mick Ralphs and can be found on the Running With The Pack album. Niece stays true to the essence of the song and does not revamp it in any way that’s offensive. Sure she turns it into gospel rock. But even Mick Ralphs himself could appreciate somebody taking this forgotten gem and dusting it off the shelf.

One of the most grabbing moments is Niece wrapping her whiskey-soaked vocals around the slow jazz rock ballad “Hard Times.” It’s a number in which keyboardists Jody Nardone and Johnny Neel are mixed front and center to give the proceedings a touch of Nina Simone.

Altogether Beyond The Surface isn’t a bad piece of work. In some ways it’s a perfect top-down cruise on the highway soundtrack that can get one pumped for their working day. Certainly over-driven blues rock is wearisome to people who have had more than their fill of it. So consider this cd a little something different. It may end up being in rotation on your cd player much more than you think. Maybe on her upcoming releases Niece will find more confidence as a songwriter and try her hand on original material. The few originals contributed show she can go places and with a little luck maybe she can find a little solid ground to plant and nurture a seed that can fully blossom in very quick time. There’s no doubt the lady has it.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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