Artist: Nick Moss Band
Album: From the Root to the Fruit
Label: Blue Bella
Release Date: 05/20/2016
The Nick Moss Band is a multi-faceted unit as the title infers. Disc One – Roots is as good an album of Chicago blues as you’ll hear. Disc Two- Fruits goes in several directions – blues, rock, soul and psychedelia replete with wah-wah pedals and extended jams. Nick Moss has been playing these genres in various shades since his debut as a recording artist in 2001 with all albums on his Blue Bella label. Prior to that his experience as a sideman (mostly as a bass player starting as a teenager) for Jimmy Rogers, Jimmy Dawkins, and The Legendary Blues Band provided his schooling in Chicago Blues. The latter’s front man, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, suggested Moss switch to lead guitar which he played for two years before the band split up.
Over the years, his band has undergone many changes. Originally known as Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, now they are simply The Nick Moss Band (NMB) featuring Michael Ledbetter (vocals and rhythm guitar), Patrick Seals (drums), Nick Fane (bass and backup vocals), and Taylor Streiff (piano and organ). Ledbetter is one of today’s best blues vocalists, and is also a songwriter. This band can really cook, whether it’s traditional or contemporary blues.
This extensive effort (27 tracks) comes on the heels of last fall’s live release, Live and Luscious, recorded during the band’s European tour. Five of the seven tracks on that record are offered as studio versions here. Sax Gordon guests on three tracks on the Roots disc and harmonica standout Jason Ricci guests on “The Woman I Love” on the same disc. David Hidalgo from Los Lobos adds his guitar to “Free Will” on Fruits and 4 of the 13 selections therein are graced by background vocalists. There’s so much here perhaps it’s best to single out a few cuts on each disc. On Roots “Make Way for Me” featuring Streiff’s piano and Gordon’s sax embodies classic Chicago blues riffs as does “Dead Man’s Hand.” Ledbetter kills the slow blues tunes “Symone” and “Lost and Found.” On Fruits Ledbetter delivers classic soul on “Breathe Easy,” Moss and Hidalgo wield axes on the psychedelic “Free Will,” and the band shows how to best meld blues and rock on “Shade Tree.”
Moss is a Blues Award nominee for several of his albums. This effort is too late to be acknowledged for 2016, but don’t be surprised to see the NMB in Memphis next year.
– Jim Hynes