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Music Review: Darrell Nulisch – Just For You

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Over the course of much of his career, Darrell Nulisch has straddled a line between blues and soul, consciously attempting to synthesize the two into a genre he himself calls ‘bluesoul’ – to the extent, in fact, that he named and earlier solo effort just that.

His last outing, though, 2007’s excellent Going Back To Dallas, landed firmly in the blue end of the spectrum, with a collection of tunes well within twelve-bar convention, punctuated by more of his understated harmonica work than usual. This time out he’s gone to the other extreme, with a carefully crafted collection of blue-eyed soul in a classic vein.

Once again working with the crack Severn house band, Nulisch delivers a handful of originals, co-written with long-time bassist and musical foil Steve Gomes, along with lesser-known covers from the likes of Slim Harpo (“Just For You”), J. J. Malone (“It’s A Shame”), and an obscure but timeless tune by labelmate Lou Pride (“Work For Love”). He’s aided by more old friends, including guitarist Johnny Moeller and drummer Rob Stupka, with Severn’s Benjie Porecki on keyboards. There’s a full horn section on most tracks, expertly charted for that classic soul punch, and background vocals as appropriate.

In short, this outing is a world away from the stripped-down simplicity of Nulisch’s recent return to the blues. There’s only a brief glimpse or two of his restrained harmonica, and arrangements are big and bold, though never fussy – just solid, supple grooves in support of his quietly passionate pleading.

Nulisch, whose career includes a stint as vocalist for James Cotton after the latter’s voice failed entirely, is quite simply a great soul singer, the kind who makes it all seem easy yet packs a powerful punch with the sheer emotive articulation of his easy, relaxed phrasing. Here he tackles tunes that borrow from blues and R&B, but he and Gomes aren’t afraid to add the odd exotic touch (congas, flutes) to craft a full yet spacious sound ideally tailored to Nulisch’s talents – simmering, soulful support alternating with brassy swagger. Players are all top-notch, and producer / recording engineer David Earl (owner of and musical visionary behind Severn Records) does a fine job of creating an ambient atmosphere that keeps each instrument sounding natural and organic – in addition to a stellar collection of blue-eyed soul, this is a fine sounding disc.

Another wonderful addition to a genuinely impressive catalogue, this one maintains Nulisch’s standard for quietly yet consistently excellent recordings.  Very highly recommended!

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