At last, someone has produced a blues record without sneaking in a country, rock, funk, or jazz song. Finally, a straight blues album from a younger musician.
Thank you, Mr. Nulisch!
The Dallas-born harp player, who now calls Gloucester home, has given us 11 terrific tunes on his latest disc, including four new originals written with his long-time songwriting partner and bassist, Steve Gomes.
Nulisch, with his smooth-as-silk voice, is one of the strongest harp players on the scene today. His songs are emotional, yet not so raw as to overpower the listener. They’re sort of relaxing; something to unwind to after work or during a bad commute. It lightens your mood.
The lead-off track is "She’s My Baby" by Delta harp legend Sonny Boy Williamson, always a good choice. Another sure-to-be-favorite is the slow blues classic, "Blue Monday" by James "Thunderbird" Davis. (You know the routine: "I just can’t make it, bossman.")
Nulisch also does "Play It Cool" by Freddie King, with some fine guitar work by Jon Moeller. There are only five musicians on the record, which makes it even better. Besides Nulisch, who sings all the songs; and Gomes on bass and Moeller on guitar, there’s Kevin Anker on keyboards, and Robb Stupka on drums.
On Jimmy Reed’s twangy "Shame, Shame, Shame," Nulisch, sounding a lot like Reed in general, wails on harp.
He growls his vocals out on "That’s A Problem," an angry ultimatum to a woman who, "has too many friends for our love to survive." And that’s just part of the problem they must solve.
Song after song is just pure blues – it doesn’t matter which track comes on. Absolute perfection.
On "Feel Like Ramblin,’" Nulisch complains about his woman, Roberta, who although cold-hearted, ("She don’t cook no breakfast, don’t wash no dirty clothes/But she damn sure can cash my check down at Sonny’s liquor store.") gives him good love.
"Goin’ Back To Dallas," a slow, real emotional blues, is an ode to an old dying friend – perhaps by lethal injection courtesy of the state of Texas. Nulisch tells about going back to the Lone Star state (known for its love of capital punishment) just long enough to, "watch them put my friend away."
("He called my on Tuesday, talking ‘bout ‘D, my time ain’t long.’/ Got there Friday morning, the boy had already gone/ What hurt me so bad, I did not get a chance to say Goodbye/But I know and God know, maybe we’ll meet on the other side.")
Nulisch, who grew up with blues and soul loving parents who took him to honky tonks on Sunday afternoons, has an incredibly natural way of phrasing both his vocals and his harp licks.
He said in the liner notes that he’s wanted to make a straight blues record for quite a while, and decided to go for it after touring Europe last year.
"I came home with a renewed appreciation for that small band ‘ensemble’ sound. The challenge to pull it off effectively, how much fun and work it can be to play – and maybe the best thing – to see the effect it can have on a crowd got me eager to get started," Nulisch said.
The idea, he said, was to have the album sound like a live gig: simple, honest, and fun.
And that it is.