Friday, November 10, 2017

Nick Black - Summer + Spring (2017)

Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin

Twenty eight year old vocalist and guitarist extraordinaire Nick Black scores big with the release of Summer + Spring, a thirteen song opus with no filler and consolidating his position as one of the foremost practitioners of soul, R&B, and blues working in the music world today. It’s a winning follow up to his 2015 release Deep Blue and finds Black working alongside seasoned music professionals like producer James Bennett and Grammy award winning engineer Brad Blackwood. It’s been spearheaded by two compelling singles from the release, the title track and “Joy to the Girl”, and those songs are emblematic of the overall excellence defining this release. Summer + Spring is a deliriously entertaining collection, but this third release from Black clearly illustrates why he’s regarded as one of the most formidable talents coming up in the pop-influenced soul scene.

“Joy to the Girl” is percolating from the first and never relents. This funk fueled romp has busy percussion and bass, a vibrant horn section, and colorful keyboard work, but never exceeds the boundaries of good taste while remaining entertaining throughout. Black’s vocals are the icing on the cake as he delivers a bright vocal smoothed out to a fine polish, yet one suggestive enough to serve a song like this extraordinarily well. The title song is much more grounded in traditional R&B, albeit the uptempo variety and the continued presence of horns in the mix add much. The true crowning moment for this song, however, comes with the introduction of Black’s guitar work. His fiery lead playing doesn’t really assert its presence until near the song’s end, but it makes an enormous impact. The enormous rave up kicking off “Nick at Night” kicks off what practically constitutes a jump blues built around his surname. The humor is real, but never overstated and Black’s vocal oozes the necessary charisma to pull this off.

“Runaway Heart” is part blues lament and part soulful barnburner in the tradition of songs like James Brown’s “Please Please Me” and one can only imagine that this track will become a marquee number in his live set. “Neighbor” is one of the more nuanced pieces of songwriting on Summer + Spring and brings acoustic instruments into the mix with his customary use of horns, but the most substantial achievement of this release comes from another superb Black vocal that demonstrates all the sure-handed phrasing and appealing sonics of the previous numbers. We’re back in funky territory with the keyboard driven “Lay It on the Line” and the choruses are especially effective, but it’s an appealing tune overall. The bass playing is eye-popping and elastic in a way that will demand your immediate respect. The album’s finale “The River” is one of the most introspective moments on the release and has a stripped down sound compared to earlier tunes. The spartan approach is quite rewarding as it forces listeners, more than ever before, to focus on Black’s voice and this is easily one of his best performances on Summer + Spring. His third album is easily the best so far and Nick Black’s talent shows no signs of hitting some impending wall.

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