Don Nix, born 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of those people who has spent nearly all of his adult life in the music industry yet is not a household name. This is due to the fact that his time as a producer, arranger, session musician, and songwriter has overshadowed his releases as a recording artist.
Nix began his career as a member of the studio band, The Mar-Keys, along with Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. He played the sax parts on their 1961 top three hit single, “Last Night.”
His career has had an eclectic nature to it. The Mar-Keys were hired as a house band for the Stax label in the 1960s. He has worked with such artists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, Jeff Beck, Freddie King, and Albert King. He coordinated and sang in the choir for Ravi Shankar and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, and the next year released a version of an oft-covered blues standard that he first produced and wrote for the band Moloch in the late ’60s, “Goin’ Down.”.
Also during 1971, he signed with the Elektra label and recorded his second solo album, Living by the Days. That album has now been reissued by Real Gone Music.
It was an album that did not change the course of American music but one that fused blues, gospel, and soul into one creative mix. It was very close to the sound Delaney and Bonnie were producing at the time.
Nix was an accomplished songwriter and here he penned eight of the nine tracks. “Olena” is a demonstration of his soulful approach. “Going Back to Iuka” is a straight electric blues tune with a nice solo to connect the parts. “Three Angels” is New Orleans barrel roll blues-meets-southern gospel. He even manages a bluesy take on the Hank Williams tune, “I Saw the Light.”
The accompanying booklet contains the lyrics and a nice overview of his career. The sound has been remastered and comes across as clean and clear.
Living by the Days is a nice trip back to the early 1970s as Don Nix’s mix of musical styles and sounds is finally resurrected. It contains some good music from the era and is definitely worth a listen.