What a lockdown gift! This is a download-only release from Yep Roc Records via Bandcamp, made available in the midst of the stir-crazy spring of 2020. This show was recorded in 2019, the night after we saw Nick and Los Straitjackets at The Orange Peel in Asheville (tinyurl.com/zubnickpeel). There is a fairly lengthy description of the show in that post, but there are a few things about this download release you should know.
First, it sounds fantastic. There’s no studio trickery here, just vocals, Nick’s acoustic, and the Staitjackets’ two electric guitars, bass, and drums. These guys deliver the goods, and Nick’s vocals are amazing throughout. The Los Straitjackets’ mini-set, delivered without Nick in the middle of the show, is super high energy and lots of fun.
Second, the band and especially Nick seem to be having a really great time, and it comes through loud and clear on the recording. Every time I listen to this set, it improves my mood and has me smiling and bopping along. There are many highlights on the twenty-six songs on this recording. There’s a smashing version of ‘Raging Eyes’ (from The Abominable Showman), and a smoky take on ‘You Inspire Me’ from Dig My Mood, a song I could hear Nat King Cole swooning on.
Third, there’s plenty of new/recent Nick and Los Straitjackets tunes, including the rockabilly rave-up ‘Tokyo Bay’ (tinyurl.com/tokyolowe), the bouncy ‘Love Starvation,’ and the exceptional ‘Blue On Blue,’ one of Nick’s finest, and also newest. Of course, they play the classics, ‘Cruel To Be Kind,’ and a slowed-down ‘Heart Of The City.’ Elvis Costello has been playing this one a lot on his recent tours, but Nick’s rearrangement is ultra-cool. We didn’t get this one in Asheville, but we did get a fantastic version of Rockpile’s ‘Heart.’ And so it goes.
Nick closes out with his stunning ‘When I Write The Book,’ and another famous song he wrote, ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding,’ and in a great twist, he closes with a version of Costello’s ‘Alison.’
I’m not a big download guy (MP3 is a little sonically thin for my ears, luckily Bandcamp lets you get full .wav or FLAC files), but Nick fans, or just those who want to hear a master singer/songwriter and fabulous band at work, won’t find a better collection. Yep Roc are to be commended for releasing this, and the timing was heroic!