There’s room on the dance floor for fans of West Coast country, Americana and maybe mellowed-out punk whenever Nick 13 takes to the stage. You may recognize this L.A.-based singer-songwriter from his run as founder and core member of the psychobilly mainstay Tiger Army. But on his self-titled solo debut, he draws more from the ’billy than the psycho side of his past, with intriguing results.
Produced by Greg Leisz and James Intveld, these 10 tracks feature dreamy, shimmering Gretsch guitar, punctuated by spaghetti-Western low licks and bathed in mercurial sheens of steel guitar. All of this floats over grooves that focus drummer Mitch Marine entirely on the snare. The contrast between this sonic backdrop and these laid-back but insistent rhythms is heightened by the songs, all of them written by Nick 13 except for “Gambler’s Life,” a co-write with Alain Whyte. With their emphasis on minor modes, their restlessness suggests shadows drifting through the night toward far horizons.
Nick 13, whose name eulogizes his first band, Influence 13, shows a strong Bakersfield influence but infuses it now and then with vintage Texas elements, whether through the accordion on “Restless Moon” or the throwback instrumentation of acoustic bass, lap steel and a boom-chuck guitar gallop on “All Alone.” In every setting, he sings with a detached but not dispassionate delivery that draws attention to the lyric without excess vocal distractions. Strangely, this same approach, tinged with reverb on “In the Orchard 2001,” echoes Roy Orbison’s without the rockabilly legend’s dramatic, multi-range exhibitions.
Retro yet absolutely in tune with our times, Nick 13 has hit its lucky number.
In his own words
“Ray Price. He’s always played the style he wanted to, regardless of what was popular. You can’t be true to anyone or anything musically if you’re not true to yourself.”
CD IN YOUR STEREO
“‘Reason and Rhyme,’ by Jim Lauderdale.”
FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD
“Barbecue, no question.”
DREAM DUET PARTNER
“Emmylou Harris or Loretta Lynn.”
SOMETHING WE’D NEVER GUESS ABOUT YOU
“When I’m off the road, I’m a real homebody.”