Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin
There’s scant or no power chords to be found on Nick Black’s Summer & Spring, it isn’t his style, but there’s plenty of guitar driven fireworks spread out over the album’s thirteen songs. One gets the feeling that there’s likely nothing Nick Black couldn’t play if he applied himself to doing so, but the spectrum of styles covered on his third full length album cover the areas of R&B, funk, soul, and a little bit of blues. He’s equally at home on the acoustic guitar as he is the electric and his vocal skills are the icing on the cake – history is littered with the atonal output of expert axe slingers whose singing talents never quite measured up. With Black, they’re part of an overall outstanding package. It’s all wrapped up in classy, first rate production that treats every part of the song as essential and renders the instrumental work with bell-like clarity. The songwriting driving his first two albums was remarkable, but he’s certainly stepped up his game with this release and the inclusion of some comedic elements indicates a performer of growing confidence rather than someone merely angling for attention.
One of the album’s first two singles, “Joy to the Girl”, begins things on a wry and slightly funky note. It’s an infectious, celebratory number that makes great use of the uptempo churning of its verses. This is a song that’s light on its feet and has a bright spirit embodied by the tightly coiled rhythms and crisp dispatch from every instrument. The album’s second single and title track “Summer & Spring” is a much more sedate number by comparison, but its stylishness never undercuts the heart and soul Black so obviously pours into its performance. “Nick at Night” is a rollicking romp with jazzy inclinations that we seldom hear on Summer + Spring, but when those traits come out, they capture your attention. His guitar work has a rugged quality on the song that it doesn’t typically sport, but it also pushes through the song with the same bounce we hear from the horns and rhythm section alike.
“Change” is more like a light rock track with horns brought in as an added musical measure. The steady 4/4 beat never wavers and avoids unduly spicing things up with any sort of ostentatious fills or self-indulgent notes. The same lean, muscular focus defining so much of the release continues with this song, clocking in at just a hair over three and a half minutes, but the relative brevity of these songs doesn’t indicate a paucity of ideas. Instead, Black and his musical cohorts come off as a musical unit that knows exactly what they want to say each time out. He continues flirting with light AOR rock on the song “Neighbor” and it’s the drumming that, once again, gives this a four on the floor quality impossible to deny. It’s the first song to exhibit his talents as an acoustic player, but soon cedes ground to a musical arrangement more common for Black. He turns up the funk heat with his song “When the Morning Comes” and it dials in to a bite missing from most of Summer & Spring’s songs without ever sound radically different from the surrounding material. “The River” closes Summer & Spring with a bluesy acoustic track that varies from the bulk of the material, like the aforementioned tune’s sound, without ever standing out as some sort of oddity. It proves to be a fine ending to one of the year’s most rewarding releases from any genre.