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Nick Moss - Privileged

Blue Bella Records

Release date: March 16, 2010

“There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …”
from For What It’s Worth” Buffalo Springfield, 1966

Buffalo Springfield’s 60’s anthem is the perfect choice of a cover on Privileged, the new release from Chicago’s Nick Moss. In a time when Average Joe’s on opposite ends of the political spectrum are ready to unleash their growing unease and anger against a government they feel is leaving them in the dust of bank bailouts and insurance giveaways, Moss taps into that anger in an unpretentious, direct fury of blistering social commentary. But something else is happening here, as Moss paints a thunderous musical backdrop to that commentary, signaling a change in direction for a man that has been crowned the torchbearer of the traditional Chicago blues sound for much of the last 10 years.

Musically, Privileged owes as much, if not more, to Hendrix & Zeppelin and as it does to Muddy or Wolf. For much of the past decade, Moss has, at least outwardly, accepted the weight of carrying on that tradition with a number of solid traditional blues releases that would make former mentors Jimmy Dawkins & Jimmy Rogers proud. On Privileged, Moss & the Fliptops have freed themselves from the limitations that come with those expectations to deliver a blues/rock blast of working class sentiment that expresses both lyrically and musically the anger and unease permeating America in 2010.

The heads of long time Moss fans will swivel upon hearing the first bars of Privileged, as Moss sounds more Hendrix than Muddy on the opener Born Leader, a stinging indictment of slick politicians who play on voter fears in their rise to power. Privileged at Birth spits contemptuously at silver spoon fat cats with an underlying folk feel that Buffalo Springfield might have delivered on their second album. And when they do cover Buffalo Springfield, Moss yields his microphone to drummer Bob Carter on For What It’s Worth while Moss and the band cover this Classic Rock standard as if they were channeling early 70’s War. Their cover of Cream’s Politician also fits thematically into Privileged, but may be a little too true to the hard rock original for longtime Moss fans.

Long time fans who do blanch at Moss’ new direction will still like much of what’s on Privileged. The shuffling cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Louise sounds like vintage Moss with an R.L. Burnside groove as a foundation. Longtime bandmate Gerry Hundt brings out the delta in his mandolin on the biting Moss penned Georgia Redsnake. And for those loving those long Moss instrumentals, the albums closer, Bolognious Funk, is a 7½ minute funky, fun romp featuring new organ player John Kattke.

In late 2008, he chuckled as he told me he has trouble veering outside the classic Chicago blues sound because “anything I do ends up sounding like Chicago blues.” It’s clear by listening to Privileged that Moss has found a way to smash through that barrier to forge his own sound, a sound that may bring blues into the new decade or move Moss into a wider audience. Privileged is the work of a man at the top of his game, and his profession.

Reviewer Jon Norton is Music Director at WGLT Public Radio station in Normal, IL.

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