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Darrell Nulisch  - Just For You

Severn Records

Darrell Nulisch has been around for awhile, paying his dues and obviously doing what he loves. He has recorded several albums over a 20 year span, but from the opening song of his latest effort, “Just For You”, longtime fans will quickly recognize that this album may be one of his very best. If there was ever any doubt about his identity as an artist, his new release asserts his natural strength as a soul man. Before he a was maybe perceived as a ‘R&B- Blues guy’, but “Just For You” separates him from the blues artists and puts him in the category he belongs in.

 “You Don’t Know Me”, the first cut of this album was written by Nulisch and Steve Gomes, and is arguably the best song here. The horn section and the Memphis groove grab the listener immediately, and by the time the chorus comes around with that little hook, you’ll either be stomping your feet or dancing. I played this song on my radio show last week and by then I had already listened to it  at least 6 times and yet I still couldn’t wait to hear it again. I also love the guitar tone on this song, meshing perfectly with Darrell’s sweet vocal delivery.

The next cut, “The Woman Don’t Live Here No More” brings more of Nulisch’s smooth vocals and another dose of very cool horns. Like many of the songs on this album, the listener will hearken back to the days of old soul and R&B, and I got that familiar feeling several times with this album, hearing something similar to maybe something I’ve heard before.  Once “Work For Love” gets going it takes on a kind of Tyrone Davis vibe, as does “Natural Thing” later on the album. Legendary baritone sax man Willie Henderson is the man doing the horn arrangements on this album, and the fact that he used to work with Tyrone and The Chi-Lites may partially explain the nostalgic feeling that you get when you listen to this music. This album will appeal the most to lovers of those old sounds, and one senses that the artist is paying homage here to his old influences.

“Just For You”, written by Slim Harpo is done here in a style reminiscent of Sam & Dave, until Nulisch’s harp playing comes in and gives it a different twist. “It’s A Shame” (J.J. Malone) is another standout cut that makes you want to dance and shake it. It has a kind of Staple Singers groove and reminds me of Ben E. King a bit. The only straight blues song on the album is “Just A Little Blues”, (written by Nulisch and Gomes) featuring a simple but effective organ bit by Benjie Porecki, more impressive horns, great guitar licks by Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) and more of Nulisch’s impressive vocals.

The songs in this collection cover a number of different tempos, rhythms and grooves, and they are intermixed perfectly, giving an added enjoyment to the experience. After the swampy feel of “Just A Little Blues” the producers insert “Far Too Lonely”, an upbeat and bouncy R&B number with a tight little groove and a classic 60’s sound.

Ballad lovers will dig “All The Love We Had” and Willie Henderson’s familiar horn parts lend a ‘Chi-Lites/Earth, Wind and Fire’ facet to the production. While not one of the stronger songs on the album, it does serve to showcase Nulisch’s versatile singing abilities. The best ‘organ song’ on the album has to be, “Let A Woman Be A Woman” (Nulisch and Gomes) which starts out like a Jack McDuff or Booker T. instrumental but morphs into a catchy vocal number with organ and guitar adding tasty licks throughout.

The Tyrone Davis sounding finale, “Natural Thing” is a fitting ending to a great album. I especially dig the piano track and the really strong rhythm guitar which really drive the song home.

The musicianship on this album is very good, and the recording production is top notch with a rich and full mix. Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums lay down a solid foundation essential to the success of this session. Kudus to the horn players and the background vocalists, and Victor Williams’ percussion playing adds a bunch to this record (I love the conga parts on “You Don’t Know Me” and “It’s A Shame”, and the tambourine on “”All The Love We Had”, ”Let A Woman Be A Woman” and “Natural Thing”).  

Darrell Nulisch and Steve Gomes have to be respected as songwriters, even if they do borrow song structures and chord progressions from their idols from the past. Let’s face it, that old music by those old artists influenced so many of us but most of them are gone now. Darrell Nulisch has picked up the torch and is keeping the music alive for future generations, and at the same time proving that a white guy can perform this stuff. On both his interpretations and his original songs, Nulisch stays close to tradition but adds little creative elements to the music, enough to give a fresh and new quality to an old and respected genre. I plan to keep playing this album on my radio show and I recommend it to all music lovers, especially connoisseurs of that old 60’s and early 70’s R&B and soul.

Reviewer Bruce Williams is seasoned Blues musician (Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz and The Chicago Fire, Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Mark Hannon Blues Band). He learned the blues from some of Chicago’s masters and has shared the stage with legends such as Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn, Hound Dog Taylor and Jimmy Johnson. His band appears at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. He hosts a weekly radio program on WRLR FM Public Radio and produces music out of his home based Highland Lake Records Studio.

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