Album Review: Jared James Nichols- JJN

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – 13th Jan 2022
Black Hill Records

Singer, guitarist, songwriter and Gibson Guitars brand ambassador Jared James Nichols has announced his self-titled new album will be released on January 13th via Black Hill Records. Jared James Nichols, his third full-length offering, features the new single Down The Drain as well as the previously released Hard Wired. The collection showcases every side of the Nashville-based multi-talent and the various genres he grew up listening to, whether it was grunge or blues, that have influenced his authentic sound.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch JJN live and up close on small stages in the UK, and he is such an intense and passionate performer, and this record has been captured in the perfect way to reproduce that live impact.  It’s recorded mostly live, on tape, produced, engineered, and mixed by Eddie Spear (Zach Bryan, Slash, Rival Sons), with bassist Clark Singleton and drummer Dennis Holm.  Just three guys in the same room, pounding your ears, and rattling your bones with their unique brand of sleazy, grungy blues-rock.

It’s a shame that COVID has deprived Aussie audiences of seeing the ‘BLUESPOWER’ phenomenon in the flesh, as he was slated to join John 5 on the last two rescheduled tours – not to be sadly!

This is the third album from JJN, and has seen him suddenly find his absolute niche, after two very competent and well-received blues albums, with this much rougher, tougher and gritty record, that has a much more vintage and heavier blues rock feel than before – and makes it really hard to define.  I have listened to it more than a dozen times now, and am still hearing all sorts of new elements.  My Delusion packs a real punch and comes across as the classic rock power trio, with a thundering bass and drum line, with drum fills on the ragged edge, and the moaning and wailing of JJN’s guitar overlaying it all.  There is some insane playing of lead breaks on Easy Come Easy Go, over the stripped back pre-choruses, before rolling into the catchy chorus.  The solo is right out of the Alvin Lee, James Gang or Cream back catalogue with blasts of feedback and screeching guitars that set JJN apart from some of his ‘cleaner’ peers!

The recent single Down The Drain has more of a Seattle sound, from JJN’s grungier early influences, both in the guitar sound and the vocal delivery, in particular the “Daaaaaooown” of the chorus.  This is in huge contrast to the first single, Hard Wired, which is all rock guitar hero intro, low-tuned monster riff which reminds me of the Max Webster classic Battle Scars (performed with Rush), and JJN’s snarling voice.  This has a great little interlude before that riff leads us into another solo delivered with the utter freedom of someone doing what he loves!

Another detour into the fast-paced and insistent energy of Bad Roots, which on the face of it is a pretty standard verse / chorus / verse / chorus / solo and repeat rocker – but the manner of delivery, the purity of the lead through the solo, and the variation in the repeat pre-chorus that follows just makes this track so effective.  

There is a US 1980’s classic hard rock tinge to Skin ‘n Bone that could have been from the Tesla back-catalogue, or appeared on one of the Black Country Communion records, or the recent Smith-Kotzen album.  This feel continues through Long Way To Go which just erupts without any fuss, and has a great minor-key phrase to lead into the chorus.  Lead and Bass guitars stick close together, while Dennis Holm kills it on the drums.

Atmospheric guitar effects, and old-school rock ballad vibes, with a superb retro guitar tone that threatens to build to the crescendo you know is coming in Shadow Dancer.  Again this has the BCC feel in parts, and has many layers, and an ethereal solo that reinforces the slightly spacey feel of the rhythm track, and then sees JJN let rip with the voice into the final verse / chorus, over a real ear-worm of a lead melody.    Good Time Girl has another cracking riff and is a pretty straight-up hard rock banger, supported by some really tight crisp drumming, and featuring a ripper of a solo – short and oh so sweet!

There is a more modern heavy metal feel to Hallelujah, sort of Technical Ecstasy era Black Sabbath, or those early Dio albums.  This is flat-out rock at it’s best, and JJN absolutely shreds over the double-time mid-section solo, with Clark Singleton slapping his bass in a frenzy until the sharp accents that lead us back to the chorus refain.  Saint or Fool has a soft country-rock intro that almost immediately gets blitzed by the raucous riff and all-out belted vocals, and then a ridiculous lead break that precedes the main solo, which is even more outrageous, delivered over another vintage backing from bass and drums.   This one will be epic played live!

The album closes with an understated slow-burner of a track in Out Of Time, which is a beautifully constructed piece, that allows Jared James Nichols to really show how much he has grown and developed over the past 3 or 4 years.  The melodic vocals of the Woah Woah Woahs are a joy, and create a perfect atmosphere for the virtuoso guitar work that follows.  This is a subtle but very powerful illustration of how good this man and the band are – and make no mistake, while this is a Jared James Nichols album, the record is very much a group effort.

The man himself though, merely says: “I made a record to serve as the menu for the live show” – so let’s hope we get the chance to see it before too long!

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Down the Drain LIVE –