Monday, January 9, 2012

Here I Am reviewed by Mark Thompson

Here I Am 
Nick Moss
Blue Bella Records
11 tracks/71:59

Nick Moss continues his exploration of the music that moves his soul. On his last release, Privileged, Moss made it clear that he was moving beyond the traditional blues format, incorporating elements of  the rock music he grew with and also using his songs to express some of his views on the state of our nation. On his new recording, Moss takes another step forward by disbanding the Flip Tops and forming a new band of younger musicians who have the chops to keep Moss operating at the top of his game. The members include Travis Reed on keyboards, Patrick Seals on drums and Nik Skilnik or “Stumpy” Hutchkins on bass (note: Matthew Wilson is now the bass player for the band).

The title cut is a hardcore rocker with Moss revisiting the “don't judge a book by its cover” theme and making it clear that he doesn't want to be pigeonholed or categorized. Nick wrote “Candy Nation” after watching an endless stream of drug commercials on TV after being unable to sleep after a late-night gig. He ponders our reliance on “miracle” pills despite their often serious side effects. “Why You So Mean” is a ferocious boogie tune that features excellent interplay between Reed's piano and Moss on slide guitar. The plight of middle class families is covered on “Blood Runs” with the heavy riffs from Moss's guitar giving voice to the anger of working families struggling to get by.

Moss lays down a plaintive vocal on “Here Comes Moses”, a song that finds him mixing biblical images in attempt to understand life and his attempts to live it on his own terms. Moss gets help from Michael Ledbetter on backing vocals. Ledbetter's singing on the sessions created such a strong impact that Moss decided to add him to the band. Ledbetter, Shuree Rivera and Jennifer Evans bring a gospel intensity to “It'll Turn Around” as Moss shares a soulful expression of his hope for the future, punctuated by a biting slide guitar solo. “Katie Ann (Slight Return)” is a simple love song that serves as a launching pad for Moss to pay homage to the Jimi Hendrix legacy with an extended guitar workout.

The disc comes in an attractive gate-fold package designed by Nick's wife, Kate at Moonshine Designs. Included are comments from Jimmy Thackery as well as a booklet with complete session notes and lyrics for each song. Blues purists will have a hard time with this one. But there will be plenty of listeners who can relate to where Nick Moss is coming from. He continues to expand his horizons and we should be thankful that he refuses to get comfortable. His restless soul conjures up powerful emotions in his music and guitar work remind us once again that he is one of the best in the business.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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