Now Playing: Nick 13

Recently, I spent some time in Boston, a loverly city full of things to do.  My husband & I scouted the music listings in the Boston Phoenix, curious about the gigs around town.  There were pages & pages of listings; the real challenge was trying to find something we’d both like.  After realizing Florence & the Machine had sold out, the next best thing was Nick 13 at the Brighton Music Hall.

Now, I like Tiger Army’s Music From Regions Beyond a lot.  But it looked like this was a solo effort.  So when my husband asked me what kind of music Mr. 13 would play, I had to answer with an honest “I don’t know.”  I mentioned Dustin Kensrue’s solo efforts from Thrice.  Thrice is punk/indie/post-hardcore while Kensrue went on to do a folk album.  As I later found out, Nick 13 had followed in his footsteps.

After a roundabout day locating the venue, getting tickets & deciphering Boston’s public transportation system, we found ourselves at Brighton Music Hall.  We were surrounded by guys who looked like they had stepped out of a punk rock version of The Outsiders & girls who could have been understudies for Barbara Steele, Marie Windsor, & of course, St. Bettie.  My husband asked me, “What is psychobilly anyway?”  “Imagine if Bill Paxton’s character from Near Dark had a band,” I replied.  Dark, scary fun with an edge & a charm.  Plus tattoos.

Image credit: E. Rabin
Nick 13 at Brighton Music Hall, Boston Mass.

“Thirteen” by Johnny Cash played as an intro & then we were off & running, with Nick’s new song “Restless Moon.”  The country/Americana sound is not really such an unexpected departure for him.  Tiger Army songs like “Hechizo de Amor” & “Where the Moss Slowly Grows” hint at those leanings.  Psychobilly is rooted in rockabilly, a genre that reinterprets a certain rock/pop sound.

From there, Nick went on to play most of the other songs from his album, such as “When Will They Carry My Body Down?,” “Nashville Winter” and a cover of Buck Owens’ “Walk the Floor.”  Each song is lyrically well-crafted & doesn’t miss a tick where the sound is concerned.  Nick clearly knows his genre & I think any country music aficionados in the crowd would be hard-pressed to critique his style.

But one of the notable things about Nick’s performance is his voice.  My husband said, “He reminds me of a Ricky Nelson or a Fabian.”  Now first of all, yes, I realize this shows my husband’s age, but secondly, if you really listen to the solo album, it’s not such a corny comparison.  Nick 13 has the kind of voice that would send David Lynch to the drawing board of his next movie.  He’s earnest, true blue & sweet–not just “awesome & kick-ass” sweet but “troubadour on the corner singing for the lovebirds” sweet.

(Also, for any guys reading this, I know that “sweet” from a girl is the kiss of death to your machismo, but I mean it in the best way possible, not all puppies & unicorns-like.)

At the end of the night, both my husband & I were exhausted from clapping & blissed-out on good music.  Nick’s performance at the hall was one of the highlights of our Boston trip & honestly, my husband hasn’t stopped listening to the CD since we bought it.  I would highly recommend Nick 13 to anyone who wants to hear a fresh take on Americana sound.  My one small critique is that while all the songs are solid, there isn’t one real break-out single that could really catch fire.  Or, maybe I’m wrong.  Listen & let me know what you think.


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