U.S. guitarist, Jared James Nichols, has a new album Black Magic. It is the follow up to 2015’s impressive debut album Old Glory & The Wild Revival. Since that release, Jared has built up a solid reputation on the back of touring in support of his debut. With such luminaries as ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zaak Wylde, Glenn Hughes, Walter Trout, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO and Saxon giving him a support slot, this gives a guide to the uninitiated as to where his music has its roots. Rock, Blues and a bit of Soul make up Jared’s sources of inspiration and he uses them to great effect on this new release.
Listening to this, and his debut reveals an instinctive approach to his playing. I cannot detect a plectrum in use anywhere. Picking styles (apart from the master, Jeff Beck) tend to be the reserve of acoustic players. Jared proves the exception and, even when playing slide, this style works very well indeed. The ‘power trio’ cliché will have to be deployed too. This three piece are tight, complimentary and accomplished. Vocally he is very strong too and has that rare quality of being able to sing while enunciating clearly.
Before we go any further, however, I do have one major complaint with this album… out of ten tracks, only two last longer than 3 minutes and none more than 4. It is too short Jared!
Opener Last Chance, starts with phased guitar and kicks into a storming riff. A solo of barred strings and hammering is a delight. The next song, The Gun, is a delta shuffle electrified. Subtle slide phrases expand the riff and it builds into a potential crowd-pleasing call/response section. A slide solo spoiled only by being too short (a repeating theme?!). Don’t Be Scared follows with a riff, which has echoes of Deep Purple’s Never Before. A talk box is deployed, but not overplayed. Honey Forgive Me brings funk into the equation. This could have been on the Stax label in 1970. Backed by the delightful vocals of Jessica Childress (apparently, she was a huge success on The Voice in America in 2013) she helps ensure that a soulful feel is to the fore. A bit of Southern-tinged rock comes into play on Home. Slide guitar warms the opening and reminds me so much of the Allman Brothers in its structure and execution. A Chicago style electric blues shuffle opens Got To Have You. This is such a good track in every way…apart from being too short. Makes a lie out of the assumption that blues should be sad; this is a rocking, blues love song with bite. Yet another glorious solo of picked perfection. End Of Time is out and rock with a blues tinge. Reminiscent of Pat Travers in many ways, it is another short and sweet song. Simple can be good, and Run is notable for gaps in the chord progressions. Inevitably, this style brings Free and Kossoff to mind, and the solo is similarly expressive without forcing too many notes into it. Back to 70s rock with Keep Your Light On Mama. Structured like a Mountain song in the Mississippi Queen era, this has acres of power. A power trio will always make Cream spring to mind; particularly on the final song, What Love. A Badge like bass intro opens into an echoey slide and vocal. Again, Jared shows he understands that less can be more and doesn’t try to overload every song with a guitar ‘attack’. The picked slide solo here is just sublime and makes this my favourite of a great bunch. Although have I said this before? It is far too short!
This is a great album for blues, rock and blues/rock enthusiasts and should cement Jared’s reputation as a guitarist of rare skills. So, if you want long widdly solos do not buy this. If, on the other hand, you want high-quality guitar playing with crafted, unflashy yet excellent solos, then buy this…you will not be disappointed. Praise too for Holm and Sandin for such solid and empathetic backing. The production by Perry ensures that we can appreciate their playing throughout. I only wish other producers would consider this before they bury sounds in electronic wizardry. (Are you listening Mr Ezrin?)
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Last Chance
- The Gun
- Don’t Be Scared
- Honey Forgive Me
- Got To Have You
- End Of Time
- Keep Your Light on Mama
- What Love
Jared James Nichols (guitar, vocals), Dennis Holm (drums), and Erik Sandin (bass, vocals), Jessica Childress (backing vocals)
Recorded at the Boneyard, Boston and Johnny Depp’s home studio.
Produced by Tony Perry and Jared James Nichols.