Nick Moss

Nick Moss

Blue Bella Records

By Brian D. Holland
March 2010

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Privileged, the latest release from Nick Moss, is a different approach for the Chicago bluesman for a couple of reasons. First of all, though most of the Flip Tops appear throughout the album, he's flying solo from the band name this time. And although Moss has displayed a resilient capacity to stay within the boundaries of traditional blues, Chicago in particular, he has changed direction a bit as well.

By way of seven previous CDs of Chicago electric and acoustic blues, a few of which were deserved award winners, rockin' the blues is the general approach here. It's immediately discerned in the album's opener, “Born Leader.” The song about leadership and truth is coerced down a hard driving path by a dynamic guitar riff. It is in a Tinsley Ellis vein, which is a change for Moss, though different influences are bound to pop up when a performer's sound and style alters.

Both the front and back of the CD display familiar scenes from the Great Depression, which is frighteningly painful realism considering today's waning economic situation. Additionally, the album theme lays reference to what the blues is all about, and the places in time where the music is most relevant. Moss relays the significance in the album's fourth song, “Privileged at Birth,” in which harsh lyrical content fronts an appealing melody heavy on rhythm guitar. It contains some brilliant lead work as well, the guitars of which are all performed and overdubbed by Nick. He displays that expertise again in “Louise,” as well as his adoration for rhythmic potency, a trait a Chicago bluesman never leaves behind. In a George Thorogood vein, a solid riff intro into tube amp distortion sets the mood.

Gerry Hundt's mandolin gives “Georgia Rattlesnake” a Zeppelin-like presence. Moss also gets into a couple of interesting covers. Although his rendition of Cream's funky “Politician” is distinctive in sound and delivery, it's interesting that Moss's voice sounds a lot like Jack Bruce. Stephen Stills' “For What It's Worth” is covered in a funky and bluesy way. The appealing rendition has drummer Bob Carter on vocals while Moss concentrates on lead guitar and a wah-wah-infected rhythm.

An interesting aspect about this album is that although it seems like a big change for Nick Moss at first listen, it has a tendency to grow on you quickly, to the point of sounding like just another Nick Moss blues gem. And there's nothing wrong with that. His biggest departures are “Tear 'Em Down” and “Bolognious Funk.” Both are seven minute pieces that fly off on incredible instrumental tangents touching on '60s psychedelia and fusion, the latter being a progressive instrumental that journeys off on a single chord for a good stretch.

As with traditional blues, Moss proves with Privileged that he's pretty adept at the genres that followed it. And although it can be perceived as being the other side of Nick Moss, the music contains just as much influence, emotion, and realism as the more traditional stuff. The best thing about this crossover is that it demonstrates just how related the music really is, and that one style is not the enemy of the other. But then again, that's what Muddy Waters was saying for years.

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