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Issue 1084

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Review

Nick Waterhouse: Never Twice (Innovative Leisure)

Nick Waterhouse CD Cover

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6.1

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UK release date 30.09.2016

His third studio album, this US jazz, soul and R&B artist has been bubbling under the mainstream radar for a few years now.

Somewhat of a best kept secret over here and in the wider world. Is his luck about to change with new album, “Never Twice,”?

Think Mose Allison, Jon Hendricks, Georgie Fame, Ray Charles and Van Morrison to get a handle on Nick. With the ghost of Cab Calloway hovering in the distance. An old soul in the body of a white 30-year-old who looks more like an accountant than a hip singer songwriter.

The California rhythm and blues revivalist sees Waterhouse return to his original collaborator, producer Michael McHugh (Black Lips, Ty Segall, Allah-Las). McHugh was a local legend in the Orange County music scene that Nick grew up in. McHugh was the first person to put Nick on tape and in an effort to re-capture the vibrancy of the Huntington Beach scene of Nick's youth, he invited McHugh up to his current home in San Francisco to work the boards once again.

Once he had McHugh on board, Nick began calling in his favourite players. Jazz musician Bob Kenmotsu's flute, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello collaborator Ralph Carney on sax, Dr. Lonnie Smith protege Will Blades on Organ and a smattering of top end horn, bass and guitar players.

He gives us a cocktail of 1950s R&B and jazz, 60s soul and boogaloo. But as retro as it is, this still has relevance to today’s musical movements and trends.

Nicholas Ryan "Nick" Waterhouse was born in 1986, the son of a fireman and a saleswoman. He took up guitar at age 12 and as a teenager was more interested in obscure and eclectic Americana outside of the pop and contemporary rock of his peers. He cites Bert Berns, Mose Allison, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, and a reading of Peter Guralnick's portrait of Dan Penn as early influences in his musical development. He started his career as guitarist and singer-songwriter with "Intelligista," in 2002 for a year, a band compared to the Animals and High Numbers-era of The Who.

In 2002, the band went into a local studio to record a radio broadcast and a 7-inch single, beginning a friendship between Waterhouse and owner-engineer Mike McHugh. At the end of high school, the band split, Waterhouse attending San Francisco State University.

There he pursued music with little luck, thus becoming involved with the DJ community. He took a job at the all-vinyl Rooky Ricardo's Records, and says owner Richard Vivian and the shop's connections to the local soul club scene were a great influence on his music.

He recorded his debut single in late 2010, "Some Place", backed with "That Place," recorded with a pickup group billed as the Turn-Keys, featuring Ira Raibon of the Fabulous Souls playing saxophone. In the vein of the electrifying mid-century modern rhythm and blues he loved, with his howling falsetto stopping traffic.

The initial release of "Some Place" in November 2010 was on Waterhouse's own PRES imprint. The single was recorded, mixed, and mastered completely analogue to lacquer, plated and hand-pressed. The labels were handset letterpress printed. Copies of "Some Place" are much sought after by collectors and DJs, selling for big bucks if you can find a copy. Since re-pressed on CD.

On the strength of the self-distributed single, Waterhouse assembled a backing group, The Tarots, as well as taking on a trio of female vocalists, The Naturelles. They were in demand and toured Australia, Japan, and Russia - hitting stages everywhere including the famed Montreux Jazz Festival and charting on college, public, and commercial radio.

He relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2012. In May 2012, his debut album, "Time's All Gone,2 was released on Innovative Leisure Records. His second LP, "Holly," was issued in March 2014.

Nick's song, "This Is A Game" was featured in the PlayStation game, "MLB 14: The Show " which was released in 2014. Nick has also produced other artists; septuagenarian soul legend Ural Thomas, Los Angeles Latin stars the Boogaloo Assassins and garage rockers the Allah-las. He's currently collaborating with the likes of Grammy-nominee Leon Bridges and Steven Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste.

The Rolling Stones blast Nick's version of "I Can Only Give You Everything” at stadiums before they go onstage. Vogue hired him to pose with Kendall Jenner.

The 10 cuts on "Never Twice," open with “Its Time,” sat on greasy organ and Latin percussion flavours; slight James Hunter vibes, with a very laid back vocal. “I Had Some Money (But I Spent It),” is Ray Charles territory, organ swapped for piano and some nice under-stated horns, female backing singers adding the feel.

“Straight Love Affair,” nods to Booker T and Steve Cropper with the organ and guitar track. A lovely Hammond solo channelling Jimmie Smith, Brother Ray and Booker T. Jones. Some cool guitar licks too on a standout cut with a great groove. “Stanyan Street,” is a mid-tempo, sassy and moody late night New York cellar bar mood. But the consistent production decision to shove distortion on the vocal is beginning to distract by now.

“The Old Place,” is an OK track. Nick’s pal Leon Bridges joins him on the infectious “Katchi,” an old doo wop style vibe, and riffs on Bridges' family name for a massage - "Katchi." The song was written by them when they were hanging out at a friend's place getting massages. Leon was laying on the table while Nick strummed the chords, bare chested, and Leon shouts out "she give me KATCHI!"... His mother's old Louisiana Indian term for 'loving touch'. Perfect fit for airplay.

Suprisingly, pitchy vocal on “Baby, I'm In The Mood For You.” “Tracy,” is very, very close to the melody and structure of Ray’s 1961 classic, “Hit The Road Jack,” written by Percy Mayfield. The instrumental “Lucky Once,” is far too long at five minutes and 44 seconds. Slinky jazz piano and percussion, which just didn’t go anywhere. The closer, “L.A. Turnaround,” doesn’t finish proceedings on a bang either.

It’s all pretty lo fi and for me, suffers a tad for those production values. But I still say this guy is uber cool, very talented and has it going on, and I still say this album should be heard. Nick Waterhouse must be heard. With the wind behind him, he could well cross over from underground to big mainstream success. But maybe he likes things on the down-low, just as they are?
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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