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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Johnny Nicholas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Johnny Nicholas. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Valcour Records artist: Johnny Nicholas - Mistaken Identity - New Release Review

 


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Mistaken Identity, by Johnny Nicholas and I really like it. With it's kooky lyrics, blues overtones and country western flavor, it's packing. Opening with, She Stole My Mojo, Johnny Nicholas on vocal, guitars, piano, and harmonica tells a wild tale with a loose riff, joined by Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitars and vocals, John Chipman on drums, percussion and vocals and Chris Maresh on bass and vocals. This is a wacky track but a memorable one. Nice opener. With it's country strut, Mule and the Devil is a cool track with Newcomb on mandolin and the addition of Chris Stafford on organ. With a funky New Orleans feel, title track, Mistaken Identity is not only a clever story but has nicely blended backing vocals and cool Clavinet work by Eric Adcock. Tight Pants is a super rocker with a high octane rhythm. With it's rock n roll feel and free wheelin' vocals, it's hard not to bop. One of my favorite tracks on the release is She Didn't Think Of Me That Way with it's Tex-Mex feel and soulful guitar lead, featuring Max Baca on Bajo Sexto and Josh Baca on accordion. Excellent! Another cool rocker is Highway 190 with it's laid back rockabilly feel. Nicholas lays down a cool piano solo and some cool guitar riffs but it's his vocals that carry the tune. Very cool. Wrapping the release is River Runs Deep, a ballad that blends all of the music on the release into one. With solid vocals, a strong melody and warm organ under the melodic guitar lead, this is an excellent closer. 


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Friday, June 21, 2019

Gandy Dancer Records artist: Peter Ward - Train To Key Biscayne - New Release Review


I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Train To Key Biscayne, from Peter Ward and it's energetic. Opening with The Luther Johnson Thing, Luther Guitar Junior Johnson is upfront on lead vocal with Peter Ward on guitar, Mudcat Ward on bass, Neil Gouvin on drums and Anthony Geraci on piano. A cool shuffle with slick guitar lead, nice harp and excellent vocal phrasing, a super opener. Laid back, almost country styled, title track, Train To Key Biscayne features Sugar Ray Norcia on lead vocal and Jiri Nedoma on piano. Ward's warm guitar soloing backed by the sax work of Aaron Gratzmiller gives it a cool retro feel. One of my favorite tracks on the release is Blues Elixir (Ronnie's Here) featuring Ward on lead vocal and really nice trademark guitar lead work by Ronnie Earl. Backed by Nedoma on piano and with solid harp work by Norcia, this is a really cool track. Johnny Nicholas is up front on lead vocal on Change (Ain't Never For The Good) and features excellent guitar work by Ward and a solid harp solo by Norcia. Geraci really gets the keys workin on this one and the drum reinforcement by Gouvin solidifies the natural swing. Very nice. Brisk swinger, As Long As I Have A Chance, again features Norcia on lead vocal and gives Ward and Geraci a great platform to showcase their soloing. Wrapping the release is Anthony's Son, a very clean guitar melody with Ward strumming chorded melody. Very nice closer for a very cool release.


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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Austin-Based Johnny Nicholas 2019 Grammy Nominee for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package



2019 Grammy Nominee for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package



1976 Reissue Album, Too Many Bad Habits, by Acclaimed Singer/Guitarist

Johnny Nicholas and Friends – the Box Set, the Lost Tapes and Much More, with Bonus Album of Previously Unreleased Songs  Featuring Big Walter Horton, Johnny Shines, Boogie Woogie Red, Ray Benson and More



Deluxe Double Vinyl Collectible Box Set Includes 68-Page Historical Book with Posters,

Photos & Memorabilia

The lost recordings of heralded Austin-based blues/roots musician and songwriter Johnny Nicholas, with blues legends Big Walter Horton, Johnny Shines, Boogie Woogie Red, Ray Benson and others, are on this 18 gram double vinyl LP reissue including a special bonus album of previously unreleased performances.

Designed by Grammy-award winning Backstage Design Studio and nominated for a 2019 Grammy – “Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package,” and also nominated for the Alex Steinweiss "Best In Show" at the 2018 Making Vinyl Packaging Awards, and Blues Blast Magazine Award for “Historical and Vintage Recording.”

The two-album set is a window into an important era in American music history in the late 1960s, when Ann Arbor, Michigan, was one of the hottest and most influential music scenes in the country. At the heart of the Ann Arbor blues revival was guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Johnny Nicholas. Arriving from the East coast for the 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, he brought some of the best blues players out of retirement to play together and create these historic recordings.

This project is of great significance to blues fans everywhere for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the newly-discovered and never-before-released tracks featuring Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton and Boogie Woogie Red.

Johnny Nicholas is an under-recognized master of traditional blues, songwriting and other blues- inspired Americana genres.

He was highly regarded and considered a peer and a member of the blues family by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Lockwood Jr, BB King, Roosevelt Sykes, Jimmy Rogers, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Eddie Taylor, Houston Stackhouse and many more legends of the blues.

Deluxe Collectible Box Set Includes:

·         Two 180-gram vinyl records                                 

·         Custom intricate 68-page book

·         Digital download card

·         Extensive 1969-2018 11x40 timeline

·         Three vintage souvenir posters

·         Assorted photos and memorabilia of the era

Distributed in record stores worldwide by Monostereo and available online at www.Johnnynicholasblues.com, CD Baby and Amazon.




Disc 1 (Remastered Album “Too Many Bad Habits”)



1.        MANDOLIN BOOGIE* - Johnny Nicholas, Ray Benson, Tony Garnier, Lucky Oceans, Link Davis Jr., Bill Mabry



2.       LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVIN’ – Johnny Nicholas, Tino Gross, E.P. Jones



3.       TOO MANY BAD HABITS – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross, E.P. Jones



4.       SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD – Johnny Nicholas, Ray Benson, Tony Garnier, Link Davis Jr., Bill Mabry



5.       “GOT THE TRAIN?” – Johnny Nicholas, Ray Benson, Tony Garnier, Link Davis Jr., Bill Mabry, Lucky Oceans



6.       ROCK MY BLUES AWAY – Johnny Nicholas, Tino Gross, E.P. Jones



7.       BLUES WALK – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross, E.P. Jones



8.       GRINNIN’ IN YOUR FACE – Johnny Nicholas



9.       THE NEW CANNED HEAT BLUES – Johnny Nicholas, Big Water Horton



10.   WEST WIND – Big Walter Horton, Johnny Nicholas



11.   BLUES CAME FALLIN’ DOWN – Johnny Shines, Johnny Nicholas, Tino Gross



12.   CARELESS LOVE – Johnny Nicholas, Big Walter Horton



13.   GETTIN’ OUTTA TOWN – Johnny Nicholas, Big Walter Horton



14.   HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gros





Disc 2 (Previously unreleased / alternate takes)



1.       MOVE ON DOWN THE LINE – Johnny Nicholas, Big Walter Horton, Johnny Shines, Tino gross



2.       PUMP JOCKEY BLUES – Johnny Nicholas, Boogie Woogie Red, Big Walter Horton



3.       BELIEVE I’LL MAKE A CHANGE – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



4.       PRISONER BLUES – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



5.       APPLE GROVE RHUMBA – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



6.       LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING (Alternate Take) Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



7.       THAT’S ALRIGHT MAMMA – Johnny Nicholas, Tino Gross



8.       HOOTIE BLUES – Boogie Woogie Red, Johnny Shines, Johnny Nicholas, Big Walter Horton



9.       MONEY MARBLES AND CHALK – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



10.   LONESOME TRAVELER – Johnny Nicholas, Big Walter Horton



11.   FROGGY BOTTOM – Johnny Nicholas, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Tino Gross



12.   SOON FORGOTTEN – Johnny Nicholas, Boogie Woogie Red, Big Walter Horton


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Johnny Nicholas & Friends - Too Many Bad Habits - New release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Too Many Bad Habits, by Johnny Nicholas & Friends and it solid hard core blues. This 2 disc masterpiece opens with Mandolin Boogie featuring Johnny Nicholas on mandolin, piano and vocal, Link Davis jr. on tenor sax, Bill Marbry on fiddle, Ray Benson on guitar, Tony Garnier on string bass and Lucky Oceans on drums. On Looks Can Be Deceivin', Nicholas teams up with Martin Gross on drums and E. P. Jones bass. Very nice. On a strong arrangement of Walter Vinson's Sitting On Top Of The World, Nicholas plays top notch piano riffs and with a sax solo by Davis, this is a super track. Another cool track is Rock My Blues Away with a standard 12 bar format but hot piano riffs and also featuring Nicholas on lead guitar. Big Walter Horton on harp and Johnny Shines sit in on Blues Walk, a crisp instrumental. Nicholas also covers Mr Son House's Grinnin' In Your Face, one of my all time favorite songs. Very nice job a capella. Big Walter joins Nicholas on Tommy Johnson's The New Canned Heat Blues. Another great track with particularly expressive vocals. Big Walter takes the lead on vocal and harp on West Wind, a real gem. Johnny Shines takes the lead on guitar and vocal on Blues Came Fallin' Down playing slide like only he can. Excellent! Gettin' Outta Town is a great boogie with Nicholas on acoustic guitar and Horton on harp. Very cool. Wrapping side one is Robert Johnson's Hellhound On My Trail with Nicholas on lead vocal and guitar, Shines on lead guitar, Big Walter on harp and Martin Gross on drums. Masterful.

Disc 2 opens with Move On Down The Line with Shines and Horton, Shines on lead guitar and Horton playing harp and sharing vocal with Nicholas. Prisoner Blues is a terrific track particularly because of Nicholas' primal vocals, floating on a cloud of Shines' lead guitar and Horton's harp. Excellent! Big Boy Crudup's That's Alright Mamma features Nicholas on wailing vocals and slide with only Gross on drums. Very effective. With Boogie Woogie Red on piano and vocal and Horton on harp, Hootie Blues is stellar. Twelve bar, Money, Marbles and Chalk  is another great track with Nicholas on lead vocal, Shines on lead guitar, Horton on harp and Gross on drums. Very nice. Wrapping the release is James Oden's Soon Forgotten with Boogie Woogie red on piano, Horton on harp and Nicholas on guitar and vocal. This is an excellent release which is literally packed full of intense blues. Beautiful!



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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Johnny Nicholas - Fresh Air - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Fresh Air, from Johnny Nicholas and it's got breadth. Opening with Moonlight Train, Nicholas keeps it light with his own vocal and harmonica backed by Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitar and John Chipman on drums. An early blues sound drives this track with purity. Sleepy John Estes' Kid Man Blues is up next with a cool bop. Cindy Cashdollar makes an appearance with some cool slide and Newcomb adds in nice mandolin giving this track a whole new feel. With a Little Feat kind of funk, Blues Time, has a real nice groove. Backaing himself on guitar with Cashdollar on slide and super percussion and drums by John Chipman and Bruce Hughes this track has a real nice feel. Country flavored, Red Light, gets a real nice lap flavor from Cashdollar and with slick piano work, Steve Riley on button accordion and Newcomb's guitar, Nicholas' vocals are perfect. Sweet Katrina has a smoky Latin feel emphasized by precise piano work and nice slide from Cashdollar. Expressive vocals by Nicholas and nicely executed guitar riffs give the track a real cool sound. Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar has an easy, slinky feel highlighted by nice bass work by Hughes and Jack Bruce like falsetto vocals by Nicholas. Painterly organ parts and a nice trade of acoustic and electric guitar riffs add a nice dimension. With a forward jazz ballad feel, How Do You Follow A Broken Heart?, is a strong entry with simple brush drums, rich lap steel soloing and nice chords supporting Nicholas' clean vocals. Very nice. With it's 8 bar format, Bayou Blues, gives Nicholas on harp, Cashdollar on lap steel and Riley on accordion equal footing in the spotlight. Nicely finger picked, Roll Mississippi, is a solitude blues ballad with mostly acoustic guitar and mandolin. Backing vocals by Newcomb, Chipman and Hughes give the track a warm closeness. Willie Dixon's Backdoor Man features Nicholas o national resonator and Newcomb on mandolin for a update on primitive blues styling. Very nice. Wake Up Bobby has a cool, swampy funk feel punched along by Hughes on bass. Nicholas' vocal phrasing and slick slide work by Cashdollar make this one of my favorites on the release. Grinding guitar tone on the opening of Workin In The Garden sets a rock theme with cool western overtones set by Cashdollar. Strong vocal delivery makes this the most radio driven track on the release. Title track, Fresh Air is a real nice track with Nicholas on slide resonator balanced against Newcomb on mandolin and clear lead vocals backed by warm rich backing vocals for a soft touch closer.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Heralded Austin Musician Johnny Nicholas Brings a Breath of "Fresh Air" with New Blues/Roots CD Coming September 2






Heralded Austin Musician Johnny Nicholas Brings a Breath of Fresh Air with New Blues/Roots CD Coming September 2


AUSTIN, TX – Acclaimed roots musician Johnny Nicholas has announced a September 2 release date for his new CD, Fresh Air, which showcases his multiple talents on various guitars and soulful vocals for an album surely to be one of the best musical revelations of the year.


Watch the Johnny Nicholas video that includes musical excerpts from the Fresh Air album:





Fresh Air was produced by Bruce Hughes and recorded at Arlyn Studios in Austin. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Scrappy Jud Newcomb (guitars, mandolin, mandocello), John Chipman (drums, percussion, vocals) and Bruce Hughes (bass, vocals, percussion), plus a guest list that includes Cindy Cashdollar (lap steel and additional guitars), the new CD creates a satisfying statement of true American roots music at its finest and most authentic.
Fresh Air is a collection of stories and melodies that have haunted me for some time,” says Johnny Nicholas. “There are some different styles here but all of this is the blues as I know it—as all American music and rock and roll has sprung from the same source. I don’t understand a whole lot of what is going on in the modern world, but I do know I could use a little ‘fresh air.’ I hope you dig these tunes.”

Containing a baker’s-dozen 13 tracks, Fresh Air covers a wide swath of Johnny’s roots – everything from the Delta blues of the album’s opener, “Moonlight Train,” to the Chicago-style city blues of the Howlin’ Wolf classic, “Back Door Man,” along with sojourns into swampy Cajun styles, Americana and everything in between.  The constant throughout all these songs is Johnny’s high-lonesome blues vocal style, lithe harmonica playing and soulful string work on an assortment of guitars. Other than “Back Door Man” and the Sleepy John Estes chestnut, “”Kid Man Blues,” Johnny Nicholas had a hand in writing all of the other songs on Fresh Air.
“Johnny Nicholas is one of the best bluesmen ever, black or white.” – Stephen Bruton. When it comes to Americana roots music and especially the blues, the late, great Stephen Bruton knew what he was talking about. His description of his long-time friend and musical comrade in arms is succinct and quite a heady compliment, but then, Johnny Nicholas is an amazing talent.
For four decades, Johnny’s consummate musicianship and vocal skills have graced live music scenes across the country and abroad. He has toured, performed and recorded with many true blues and Americana roots music legends, including Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Lockwood Jr., Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Roosevelt Sykes, Nathan Abshire, Robert Pete Williams, Eddie Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, Johnny Young, Houston Stackhouse, and Boogie Woogie Red.
Johnny recorded and toured with Johnny Shines and Snooky Pryor, producing and playing guitar on their W.C. Handy Award-winning album, Back to the Country. He was one of the lead vocalists with Asleep at the Wheel when they won their first of many Grammy Awards. He gave blues guitar icon Ronnie Earl his first gig in the now legendary band, Guitar Johnny and the Rhythm Rockers. He has also performed with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Rait, Eric Clapton, Pops and Mavis Staples, Delbert McClinton, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Marcia Ball and Jimmie Vaughan, among many others. He can wow a festival crowd of thousands or a small room of devotees.
Born in Rhode Island, Johnny discovered the blues at an early age, grooving to the great R&B that was blasting from the airwaves in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s—Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Slim, Lloyd Price, Slim Harpo, Larry Williams, Little Walter, Ray Charles and Howlin’ Wolf were all big blips on this impressionable young man’s radar screen. Like fellow Greek-American Johnny Otis had a generation earlier, this Johnny easily made the leap into the soulful world of the blues. He was high school friends with Duke Robillard and the two of them shared licks and records after school, as well as each leading their own band (Duke’s was called the Variations and Johnny’s was called the Vikings).
In 1966, he hopped the train to New York City to see his idol, Howlin’ Wolf. He ended up hanging with Wolf’s band at the Albert Hotel by day (where Wolf, the Muddy Waters band and Otis Spann were all staying), and at Ungano’s nightclub by night, where the Wolf was holding musical court while on a two week prowl of the Big Apple. This experience cemented his love of the blues while providing inspiration and a gateway to friendships and musical adventures that would help mold a successful career, and still smolder in this talented and restless soul
In 1980, Johnny decided to take time off from touring in order to raise a family. He married Brenda Schlaudt, one of the co-founders of Antone’s night club; and played music at (and helped manage) what became a Texas culinary and music legend: Hill Top CafĂ© (housed in a former 1920s-era gas station - “inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere”) near Cherry Spring, not far from Austin. Hill Top’s eclectic menu includes items that reflect his and Brenda’s Greek, Cajun and Texas influences.   
After fathering three sons, Nicholas stepped up his music ventures, highlighted by Back to the Country in 1991.  Since then, he has released several more albums and returned to a more rigorous touring, songwriting and performance schedule.
Johnny Nicholas will support the release of Fresh Air with a series of dates in the Texas area, as well as showcase venues and festival dates around the country.