Regular readers will be aware that I am particularly fond of artists who set their stall out from track one, and Johnny Nicholas comes out of the traps running with She Stoke My Mojo, a cautionary tale about getting mixed up with a woman who has shady talents in southern magic. This album is so steeped in southern boogie blues tradition you can almost smell the chicken and whiskey, feel the humidity, and kick back and just immerse yourself in the atmosphere.

Wonderful stories are cleverly woven over steady-rolling blues licks, a highlight being the title track, which harks back to Little Feat at their very best. Wanna Be Your Baby chugs on through, a laid-back love song, nothing complicated, just a little simple boogie tune. Tight Pants may not win any friends in the liberation end of things, but as a fast rockaboogie tune this is probably going to be the killer song on the live shows.

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Anyone hearing that and thinking that Johnny and the band are just unreconstructed shallow cowboys should lend an ear to the mariachi sounds on She Didn’t Think Of Me That Way, a wistful story of unrequited love where the vocal tells the story, and then the guitar and accordion tell it all over again. The best is saved for last, River Runs Deep, a gorgeously sung and played homage to love and optimism.

“exactly what we need”

Nicholas’s voice almost weeps with the weight of the message he sings, the gospel organ underpins it, and the slide guitar just weeps right along with him. Taken as a whole, this is a hugely satisfying album, with songs and moods for every occasion, showcasing a musician and writer of rare versatility and skill. The band may be too big for all of them to come over here, but we have to hope that Johnny Nicholas makes it in 2021.

His blend of dirt-kicking rock and roll and down-home beautiful country soul is exactly what we need to get us past the trials of this year, and enjoying our favourite music played live on stage again right through the next.

ANDY HUGHES

Checkout the album preview on Apple Music!