Eight time Blues Music Award nominee Nick Moss is back with his first studio album in more than two years, and he's making up for lost time in a big way with the 2-CD Play It 'Til Tomorrow.
Digesting double albums can be daunting, and most would be better off as singles. Moss makes the task music easier by not making a double album so much as packaging two single albums together. Taken one at a time, both discs are a pleasure to listen to. The first features the familiar electric Chicago blues he has explored on his previous albums. The second is unplugged, showing a side of his playing rarely before heard.
Of the two, the electric disc is the stronger of the two. The material is better and the band sounds more comfortable in the familiar environment. Don't let comfortable and familiar delude you into thinking the electric cuts are soft. "Late Night Saint" opens the album and accidentally gave the disc its title, as you hear on the hidden outtake at the end of the first disc. Guest rhythm guitarist Eddie Taylor Jr. supplies some added muscle to this rocking, roadhouse blues and gets so deep in it he proclaims, "I could play that motherfucker 'til tomorrow!" The song is so good you almost wish they would, but these guys are only getting warmed up.
Taylor supplies rhythm on several tracks, another of which is the stellar "Mistakes From the Past." His understated rhythm fills just enough space to secure the frame for some of Moss' most smoldering playing on the album.
Two of the album's finest moments come at the end of the first disc. "Too Many Miles" is a down and dirty blues that snaps, bites, and struts with a harmonica tone out of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" cutting across the chaos. "The Rump Bump" is a muscular instrumental that allows Moss to flash a few of his finer licks. A six-minute instrumental might seem indulgent in principle but it never becomes a chore.
That the electric set has an edge over the acoustic program – or the Smithsonian set, as the band calls it – is a complement to the electric, not a slight to the acoustic. The Smithsonian set gives the multi-instrumentalist Flip Tops more of an opportunity to shine as Moss' acoustic guitar gets buried in the mix. The interplay is better and more obvious on these songs, but the periodic absence of Moss' guitar at the center of it all is what puts these songs just a notch behind their electric cousins.
There's really only one knock on this album and it's debatable whether or not this even qualifies. The unfussy, DIY aesthetic of this mostly live in-studio recording has its charms but it also has its drawbacks. There is a sameness to the sounds – not the songs, but the instrumental tones – that can wear down a listener over the long haul. The blues should always have a little mess and chaos and there is plenty of that on Play it 'Til Tomorrow, but just a little bit of polish and precision would have given the individual songs a little more individual character and these songs deserve that. It's a minor complaint, which is what happens when great material is crossed with masterful musicianship; there's not much left to notice after that.
If my endorsement and the great price for this 28-song set doesn't move you to make the purchase, consider this: blues icon Buddy Guy and the legendary Jimmy Rogers — with whom Moss toured — are both on the Nick Moss bandwagon. Check out Play It 'Til Tomorrow. You'll be playin' this motherfucker 'til tomorrow, too.