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.
“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.