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James Nixon - Live in Europe

Blue Label/SPV

11 tracks; 48:00 minutes; Splendid

Styles: Blues, Gospel, Soul

Have you ever seen that TV commercial where a guy is seated at his computer, and he reaches the “end” of the internet? Impossibly, he has seen it all, and there’s no more websites to visit. Sometimes, that is how I feel when it comes to Blues artists; it would be impossible to reach the end where there are no more artists, living or deceased, that have escaped my attention. Perhaps, a more realistic goal would be reaching the 25% level.

With James “Nick” Nixon, I am one step closer to the “end” as I have now encountered this great, veteran singer, songwriter, guitarist, and band leader. A Nashville TN native, Nixon had his biggest success in the late 1990s with the Gospel single “Stand Up.” Nixon always keeps more than one iron in the fire by continuing his work in R&B and Blues, often finding himself supporting artists in the studio when not recording his own CDs.

“Live in Europe,” for a live CD, is an exceptionally well recorded and entertaining set. With Nixon on lead vocals, lead guitar, and acoustic slide guitar, it was recorded in Utrecht, Holland while on tour in 2001. “This session shows James at his peak,” according to the liner notes by Nashville’s Fred James, producer, rhythm guitar, slide guitar, and background vocals. The rhythm section is from The Amazing Rhythm Aces: Billy Earheart – organ, Jeff Davis – bass, Bryan Owings – drums. In addition, singer Mary-Ann Brandon adds background vocals. All songs are Nixon originals with “The Best in Town” by Nixon and Billy Cox (later Jimi Hendrix’s bassist). The only cover is a moving rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get ready” served up as the night’s encore.

“The Best in Town” will get aired first on our Friends of the Blues Radio Show. It’s a real-deal Blues shuffle reminiscent of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and has a great mid-song slide guitar solo by Fred James.

A true live showman, Nixon shares interesting insights with the audience, and he and the band vary the tempos and rhythms never getting in a rut. The show opener “Trying to Hold On” is a party starter that had to bring smiles to audience members as they realize their ticket money has been well invested.

“Please Come Back to Me” finds Nixon peeling off some single note guitar runs that perfectly punctuate the message. James and Earheart are locked into a perfect underlying rhythm guitar and organ duet. “Sundown Blues” is a slower Blues with Nixon pouring out gut wrenching, heart breaking vocals.

Before it’s over, Nixon takes us to the “Church House” with a rousing performance of his hit, “Stand Up” and an equally great “People Get Ready.”

If you are like me in that James Nixon has, until now, flown under your radar, this CD is more than a great introduction. It is a thoroughly entertaining live set.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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