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Nick Black - Summer + Spring (2017)




Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin

The third album from songwriter, singer, and guitarist Nick Black, Summer + Spring rates as his peak moment thus far and shows his development outstripping what anyone following his career to this point could have credibly believed possible. His work in a R&B/soul vein, mingled with an occasional dollop of straight blues, artfully straddles a line between stylistic fidelity to its source and commerciality. Black has hit upon a winning formula for shaping genre music whose appeal reaches far beyond purist ranks and, instead, satisfies both the demands of the form and what modern audiences enjoy in popular music. He accomplishes this with a songwriting style that’s equally personal and relatable while his instrumental and vocal talents bring a vibrant hue to it all without ever risking overwrought moments or gross self-indulgence. He manages to speak about common experiences while still providing us with a window into his own and even has the confidence and skill at this point to lighten the mood with enjoyable comedic moments.

“Joy to the Girl” has a title alone that hints at the playfulness informing this collection, but the song plays things straight and soon reveals itself as a musically satisfying and quite personable song about affection and desire. It’s a subject as old as time and it’s to Black’s credit that, vocally as well as via his guitar, he brings a sense of self that gives a veneer of freshness it might lack in lesser hands. The initially stripped down sound of the title track soon transitions into a full blown brass driven arrangement and the transition is handled in especially exhilarating fashion. “Summer + Spring” is a number assured to lift the mood of listeners without ever straining for credibility and its buoyant guitar work is icing on the cake. “Nick at Night” is the album’s clearest blast of humor and certainly connects thanks to Black’s charismatic vocal and the subtle layers of meaning in the lyric. He’s an artful songwriter and the finesse he brings to bear positively impacts the entirety of the album. Black’s guitar playing and sound is another key to its success and “Nick at Night” benefits from one of his best six string performances.

The steady pulse, stylized instrumentation, and colorful organ of “Change” comes together with Black’s usual brass section and guitar excellence to make for one of the album’s best songs. Like a drummer, it’s enjoyable to hear Black find a pocket in the music and unleash one of Summer + Spring’s best singing performances. “Runaway Heart” is a smoky blues number with some beautiful Black guitar playing and an equally evocative vocal that seamlessly dials into the song’s mood. Despite the blues sound, “Runaway Heart” is one of the album’s more commercial tunes despite its bluesy pedigree and comes off as likeable from the first. His funky side comes to the fore with the song “When the Morning Comes” and the elastic rhythm section performance is polished off by some crackling wah-wah courtesy of Black. Black’s upper register inclinations as a vocalist play particularly well here. We’re back with a bouncy R&B performance with the track “Dance in the Light” and older listeners, as well as hardcore devotees of the style, will appreciate the thoroughly modern recording of a very retro influenced piece. His vocal excellence continues with another performance that syncs up quite well with the musical arrangement without ever overly mimicking it. “Outside of You” is a song about rediscovery of self and moving on presented with such aplomb that it makes potentially difficult subject matter come across with sophistication and even a little elegance. There’s definitely a certain amount of elegance sustaining this release as a whole – Summer + Spring hits all the right notes and maintains a warm, welcoming air in a musical landscape distinguished by its skill and genuine emotion.  

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Swirl’s recent video for their single “Rise Up” highlights all of the qualities that brought the band to the attention of Ditch Day’s producers. The popular movie highlights three songs from the Southern California four piece and represents some of their biggest exposure yet. It follows on the heels of their self-titled release and the songs selected for inclusion on the film soundtrack represent the quality of that release quite well. The band consists of lead singer Alfred Ramirez, guitarist Duane “DT” Jones”, bassist Shane Carlson, and drummer Brian “Bam Bam” Jones. Their vivid and muscular hard rock veers into outright metal at certain points, but Swirl never goes in for the mindless bash and thud sound so common to lesser bands in this genre. Th…