After gaining a degree in audio production and a subsequent move to Los Angeles, the now Boston Based singer-songwriter Nico Rivers began to hone his musical craft. Whilst carrying out his production duties in the studio, he was also writing and performing with the rock band Pine Mountain Casket. Since hitting the road solo in 2011 Nico has released three EP's and toured throughout the US and Europe, playing either alone or with a revolving cast of musicians known as The Black Grass.
This brings us bang up to date in 2018 with the release of his first full-length album 'Tiny Death', 10 original songs, performed by Nico and the eight musicians featured here who make up the current incarnation of The Black Grass.
Album opener 'Tidal Wave' enters on swirling effects, percussive, muted guitar and then Nico's vocal before the band crashes in at around one minute thirty with some ferocious overdriven guitar and drums. Nico has a distinctively pure, quite high register voice and it put me in mind of Jon Anderson from 'Yes', or perhaps the more contemporary tones of 'Passenger'.
Second track 'Devil's Boots' is a slower, sparser number that again steps up a gear some time in and is propelled along by some crisp drumming and meaty bass before slowing down for the fade out.
'All The Same' continues the reflective theme and features some beautifully understated harmony vocals and sweet fiddle, whilst the short instrumental 'In The Reeds' serves as an extended introduction to 'Backroads'. This is another track with a particularly strong rhythmic sense driven by its acoustic guitar part, drums and bass and underlying atmospheric effects buried in the mix.
'Misty Nebraska' is a real stand out for me with its sweet guitar figure and harmony vocal that traces Nico's voice throughout. Sounding remarkably like early Simon & Garfunkel it is a beautiful little song and performance.
'Oildrips' rattles through splendidly and has a delightfully ramshackle 'Frank Turner' feel to it whereas 'Unravelling Strand' is back to stark atmospheric effects and spacey drones that is effectively another instrumental lead in to the following track, this time 'Ghosts'.
Album closer 'The Wheel' is fine, archetypal singer-songwriter fare with Nico's voice sitting on top of an acoustic backdrop that builds, pushes and pulls effectively.
'Tiny Death' is a very well recorded, produced and performed introduction to the work of Nico Rivers. The songs are radio friendly but as an album it is hard to categorize as it's not obviously Rock, Country, Roots, Folk or Americana and in fact it's easier to say what it isn't rather than what it is, which is no bad thing. However, as a first full-length record, I think they have slightly missed a trick by having two short ambient pieces that are in reality long introductions to the following songs, rather than stand-alone numbers. This means the album is really eight songs, not ten, and with the creativity on show here, I cannot imagine it would have been too onerous a task to pop in another track or two. Still, always good to be left wanting more!
Overall, a record that will do much to consolidate the reputation of Nico Rivers as a singer, songwriter and producer with the artistic sense to surround himself with musicians as good as those found in The Black Grass.
|Tracy Grammer: Low Tide||Ian Sherwood: Bring The Light|
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