Ben Nichols, on video and in review | Rock Candy

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ben Nichols, on video and in review

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM

unknown.jpg


Frustratingly, we still can't link to videos posted to the Times video player, but on the main page, midway down, you'll find an interview with Lucero front man Ben Nichols, who's got a new solo record out now that we reviewed in last week's paper. I'm posting it below. Gerard Matthews is responsible for both pieces.

click to enlarge unknown.gif

Ben Nichols "The Last Pale Light of the West"
Rebel Group

At its most basic, art — music, writing, photography, painting, whatever — is about telling a story. Cormac McCarthy is renowned for his particular talents in this area, winning acclaim for his recent works “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men.” On his first solo effort, Ben Nichols, Lucero's gravel-throated singer and songwriter, takes inspiration from characters in what's generally considered McCarthy's opus, the blood-soaked and dust-encrusted novel “Blood Meridian.”

The result is a thoughtful record, satisfying in its musicianship and storytelling. Nichols' acoustic guitar is surrounded by the dark and sometimes wistful piano playing of Rick Steff, who's toured with Lucero since “Rebels, Rogues, and Sworn Brothers” and who here adds accordion to most tracks.  Also joining Nichols is Todd Beene (Glossary, Ghostfinger), whose pedal steel polishes the songs' rough spots, giving them a subtle country sheen.   

The album opens with the title track, “The Last Pale Light in the West.” It's one of the strongest on the album. Nichols' haggard voice is particularly suited to this material. The rest of the songs bear the names of characters from the novel and serve as searching studies of each. “The Kid” follows the book's main character, a young man who finds himself trapped in the business of killing Native Americans along the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s. “Tonight your soul's required of you,” Nichols sings.

“Chambers” is one of the record's most touching songs. It tells the story of a hired gun and the love he left behind. Here Nichols sings as sweetly as he can, helped along by a swirling accordion.  

Most songs on the record are based on simple chord progressions and intricate picking patterns, highlighted with a twangy pedal steel and dark bass notes on the piano. Where Lucero conveys emotion with a mallet, Nichols here uses a scalpel. The songs are tightly crafted, brooding and mysterious, much like McCarthy's novel. Nichols has a tendency to over-sing, belting out chorus lines where a softer vocal track would have sufficed. He fights that here as the lyrics and the music complement one another.

Nichols said making the record was a “nice experiment,” but he has no hopes for a solo career.  At seven songs it's short, but it makes for one hell of a story.

Gerard Matthews

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Guns and Taxes Edition

    Governor Hutchinson’s tax cut promises, guns, Medicaid and pharmacists and the Babe Bracket — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Locked away and forgotten

    In 2017, teenagers committed to rehabilitative treatment at two South Arkansas juvenile lockups did not receive basic hygiene and clothing supplies and lived in wretched conditions.
    • Feb 14, 2018
  • The Dancin' with Bart Hester Edition

    A new lawsuit challenging the state’s photo ID law, Bart Hester vs. the humanities, signs of a threat to governors school, big bills for the state Supreme Court and Clarke Tucker making a run for Congress — all covered on this week's podcast.
    • Feb 9, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas Times Recommends: A Literary Edition

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
    • Jul 1, 2016
  • Checking in with Hard Pass

    Shayne Gray talks with Mitch Vanhoose and Chad Conder of Hard Pass (formerly Cosby) ahead of the band's album release on July 22.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • The trailer for Jeff Nichols' 'Loving' looks great

    The latest from Little Rock's Jeff Nichols hits theaters Nov. 4. It's Nichols' telling of the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose marriage led to the landmark civil rights case Loving v. Virginia, which ended laws preventing interracial marriage. Ruth Negga's performance as Mildred Loving generated Oscar talk after the film debuted at Cannes.
    • Jul 14, 2016

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation