Coke learned the lesson, back in the eighties, when they 'improved' their formula and faced an angry public backlash that marked the move as one of the great marketing blunders of all time; you simply don't mess with success.
Nick Moss found the recipe right off the bat with his debut, 2001's "Got A New Plan." It wasn't big on finesse, but what that outing lacked in polish it more than made up for with gritty passion and an intensity that went far beyond merely cramming every available space with notes. Nick had clearly learned his lessons during years spent supporting such luminaries as Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Jimmy Rogers, who in turn learned a thing or two from the greatest of 'em all, Muddy Waters. And it certainly didn't hurt to have Richard Duran - aka Lynwood Slim - along for the ride as co-producer.
That's not to say that Nick's sophomore effort, "Count Your Blessings," is a carbon copy of "Plan." Nick's a little too young to be repeating himself, so while the basic elements - including equal doses of sweaty honesty and grooves tighter than a pop star's pants - are intact, he's stretched things just a bit here, in no small part as a result of Barrelhouse Chuck's experiments with different keyboards - credits list RMI, Wurlitzer, Farfisa, and Rheem organs in addition to acoustic piano and 'Jaguar Vox'. And Nick's upped the guest list this time around. How's this for heady company - Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, Curtis Salgado, Willie Smith, Bob Stroger, and Lynwood Slim, back to co-produce once again in addition to lending his vocal and harmonica skills to a pair. Also on hand is Nick's new wife, Kate Moss, who handles rhythm guitar chores along with package design (very nice!).
Again, Nick's blues aren't fancy, and subtlety isn't exactly the first word that springs to mind. Nope, this is music that sounds like you stopped by the local hole in the wall for a quick one, ended up staying far, far too long, but right now can't imagine a better place to be. It's raw and dirty, and overtly sexy in a thrillingly dangerous way.
Curtis Salgado plays exemplary and imaginative harp throughout, and Nick, as befits someone who learned about backing and contributions from the other guests, leaves lots of room for he and everyone else to strut their stuff; like the classic blues of Chicago's golden era, this is an true ensemble outing, the whole greater than the individual parts. Nick's not the greatest vocalist around but works well within his limitations (even managing to sound a bit like Muddy himself on occasion).
Complaints? Some of the keyboard experiments work better than others. Part of that is personal prejudice; to me, the electric piano will always sound cheesy. The Rheem organ is a little too out there. And while I admire the heck out of Mr. Duran, I simply don't like the tinny sound of the piano on the majority of his productions. I forgive Nick's occasional employment of distortion, 'cause he's young and never overdoes it. Other than that - and again, at least part of the above is just me, and the rest is minor - this disc is well-nigh perfect.
A fine outing that shows Nick one of the most promising young bluesmen to come along in a long time.
Blue Bella Records
164 Division, Suite 203, Elgin, Illinois 60120
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