Graham Nicholas returns with a collection of portraits, his penchant for cutting directly to the core of his characters on full display and a strong backing band propping up his compositions.
Pleasantly, Nicholas revists some old tunes, fleshes them out with the distinctive swell of an Aaron Comeau-produced backing band. “Penny” acquires a driving force, an energy hurtling the narrator’s weak and straining heart toward its ending. “Wandering Angel” evolves from soft-spoken duet to contender for song of the year, evoking open highways even as the lyrics cut to the bone and draw blood: mother and father casting a mold for a molten son.
Indeed, Nicholas’ characters are on full display here. His lyrics are a surgeon’s scalpel, spreading open the motivations and fears of his characters with a challenging clarity. Even when his tracks acquire an upbeat drive, as in “Sunday Kinda Love,” even then the song’s sense of humour and unabashed eroticism displays the honesty and intimacy of Nicholas’ songwriting. In this track in particular, the backing band flexes its muscles and provides a well-timed reprieve from a tracklist in danger of becoming ballad-heavy. How welcome it is to find a folk singer with a talent for balancing clear songwriting and the need for pace and variety.
Sit on the front porch, pour a cup of black coffee, and listen through.