Manhaton [Release date 04.03.16]
Stevie Nimmo’s returns to his solo career with a broad based but coherent set of songs that play to his strengths as a thoughtful song writer, impassioned vocalist and stellar guitar player.
Where his solo debut ‘Wynds of Life’ marked him out as an accomplished Americana driven songsmith with plenty of potential, ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is a far more ambitious and exuberant effort.
Americana is a musical avenue that initially seems far removed from the feedback and bluster of the opening ‘Chains Of Hope’ and the smouldering ‘Running On Back To You’, which bookends a satisfyingly diverse musical journey. In short, he incorporates his musical passion into the songs rather than dominates them.
Aside from providing a line for the album title, ‘Chains Of Hope’ explores the spirit of independence and much like the album as a whole, it counterbalances his impassioned vocals with blazing guitar.
The album’s underlying conceptual thread deals with our habits and expectations. The album title reinforces the concept, in as much as the ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ if you do something different. And on this album Stevie Nimmo does do something different, if only to illustrate his own musical independence on an album that is a self confident statement of who he is artistically.
The end result is that he explores a contemporary musical vision that places the emphasis on songs, melodies and intuitive band interplay.
‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is a mature song driven album that rocks as hard as it uses restraint in its search for subtly. ‘Roll The Dice Again’ for example, drags you it its jet stream and it isn’t until the third track – the soulful ‘Change’, on which he adds a faux Smoky Robinson vocal – that Nimmo reverts to our expectations
The album’s real achievement though, is to make a coherent fist of some wide ranging material, spanning rock/blues, soul, funk, country and Americana, which draws on his past and drops big hints about his future.
Where ‘Wynds Of Life’ was a radical departure from The Nimmo Brothers mothership, ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is a big statement about his influences and song writing capabilities, while he also delivers some of the finest vocal performances of his career.
It’s also an album that nails Nimmo’s lyrical and musical substance, which is delivered with real passion and spark.
There’s more than a hint of Nashville on the crossover radio potential of ‘Walk The Thin Line’. It takes a big leap of faith to sucker the listener in with a brace of blues rockers and then hit them with a double whammy of soul and Americana. But ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ does just that, with songs such as the mid tempo, lilting funk of ‘I’ll Pray For You’ which shares a similar musical source as the preceding track, but with a repeated hook that sinks into the subconscious.
The riff driven ‘Still Hungry’ redresses the balance and lurches the album back to the Texas influenced Nimmo Brothers territory. ‘Gamblers Roll’ is a smouldering contemporary blues rocker that works its way to a defining solo, as Stevie emotes some well worn metaphors, alongside fleeting dual guitar lines and a subtle tonal colours.
He veers towards MOR on ‘Lovin’ Might Do Us Good’ and he gets more introspective on the acoustic and intimate phrasing of ‘Love You More Tonight’, but overall he attacks his material with such gusto and self belief that he’s never less than totally convincing. Marvellous stuff. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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