(The People's Label)
Texas-based bluesman Johnny Nicholas just released a new album--Future Blues. In the 70s, Nicholas performed with musical heavies such as Duke Robillard, Big Walter Horton and Robert Lockwood Jr. Around 1978, Nicholas became a member of the group Asleep at the Wheel.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Nicholas played and recorded music, but he kept a low profile. Future Blues reflects his latest on goings. "I really wanted to express deep blues, and everything that I’m about, with my own songs,” Nicholas told the Providence Journal this July. “And there’s nothing that’s out of whack with the types of songs from what I heard when I was a kid and went to see Howlin’ Wolf. It’s all the same.”
In the same interview, Nicholas revealed “I’m not going to worry about trying to be who people think I should be because I’m an old blues guy and I played in a certain style, or certain types or music, for a long time — which I still dig. It’s not like I’ve all of a sudden said I don’t want to play with horns. It’s just that I made the decision to say I believe in myself; I believe in my songs. I was just a little shaky about putting them out there. But finally I said this is me.”
The blues shuffle of "Hey Hey" begins Future Too with a light-hearted resignation of a lost lover. "Hell Bent" conjures traces of an old J.J. Cale album. The soulful "Don't Say I Never Told You So"--featuring guitar wizard Cindy Cashdollar--carries an uplifting sentiment to a wayward friend.
"Hard Time Livin'" tells a dark tale about the Gulf Shores with "too much poison in the air". The swampy "Roads On Fire" opens with the lyrics: "Too many memories for an old broken heart/Not enough time to make a new start/What you gonna do to keep from goin' insane?/Buy yourself on the southbound train."
"Mister Moon" contains guttural guitar. This number revolves around a crazy girl and a full moon. The title track definitely ranks as one of this collection's best, and the lazy banjo licks don't hurt. "Graveyard Dirt", another centerpiece composition, verifies Johnny Nicholas exhibits serious focuson this album. The piano-driven "That's The Price" borders on country-soul music, and provides diversity to this collection.
Nicholas covers Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" with a full blues band, but he sounds a bit too cavalier with the lyrics. "Pass Your Tender Lips" returns to the standard blues format. "Steadfast" closes Future Blues with a haunting bayou-based slide guitar intro that morphs into a gospel organ backed by choir singers. If you haven't already, seek out Johnny Nicholas in the near future.