It’s funny how the values you ascribe to music change over time. Back in the 70’s when I was listening to Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher I never considered the word ‘integrity’ for example, even though it was really all over the music I was hearing and loving. Jump forward almost 40 years and here I am listening to Stevie Nimmo’s second release ‘Sky won’t fall’ and the ‘I’ word is a key element to my listening pleasure. Right from the opening crackle of amp feedback this disc says simply and clearly “I am a musician and I would be if I had to sleep on the street because no one bought my records”
Not that Stevie Nimmo is in imminent danger of starving for his Art on the streets. Along with brother Alan of King King fame Stevie has carved out a dependable niche in the Rockblues market with regular ‘Nimmo Brothers’ shows. and anyone who’s seen the duos no-nonsense style at an intimate club venue will tell you they saw a show to remember – a highlight of many a rock fans concert going year in fact.
For this, what is amazingly only Nimmo’s second solo studio release after 2010’s ‘Wynds of Life’, recording sessions were booked in Nottingham’s Superfly studios with King King drummer Wayne Procter sharing production duties.
The disc opener ‘Chains of Hope’ sets both the scene and the thinking behind ‘Sky won’t fall’. Nimmo says in the liner notes that it’s a statement against the current heads bent over ipads and mobile phones generation, and indeed it is that, but it’s also a return to great rock riffs and grooves of which ‘Chains’ is very much an example. It’s the sort of pumping intro that has you expecting to hear Robert Plant or David Coverdale at the end of it. Nimmo’s voice is more in the direction of Gary Moore, but it’s a belter of an opener nonetheless for Rock fans. There’s sweat, passion and more than a little whiskey in the delivery of these songs – and they’re all the better for it.
Mention of Gary Moore leads me to note the clear presence inspiration wise of Thin Lizzy on second track up ‘Roll the dice again’ – something of a slightly downtempo take on Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’ although if you know the Lizzy track you’ll know that even down tempo could be fast! There’s some glorious wailing guitar of the like I haven’t heard in years. Close my eyes and that could be Brian Robertson soloing. I keep waiting for the other guitar to leap in ala Gorham/Robertson. My dream is to hear Stevie do this one with brother Alan trading solos. Now THAT would be sweet.
The tempo slows a little with ‘Change‘ and ‘Running back to you’ but there’s still something 70’s about the sound. As a slight surprise ‘Walk the thin Line’ takes us down a Country path with the aid of Lloyd Maines on pedal steel, and with some pleasant backing vocals it works surprisingly well, but please Stevie, no full Country disc. You’re a rocker! ‘I’ll pray for you’ is indeed something of a Pop-Rocker that burrows into the brain to ring around for hours afterwards (all in the best possible taste I hasten to add)
What Nimmo does best though is ROCK in the Bad Company/Whitesnake tradition and ‘Still Hungry’ catches him at his gobsmacking best both musically and lyrically. “I might be broke, I’m not broken. I’m still hungry” Not surprisingly the riffs on this one are superb and as good as anything that came off any hard rock vinyl in the early/mid 1970’s. I know, I was there squandering my pocket money on Zeppelin and the like in those days. Not surprisingly, given the constant touring, the band on this disc are sh*t hot too – with some precision drum work from Craig Bacon and spot on throbbing bass runs from Mat Beable.
As with all the best 70’s Rock discs there is a mandatory ballad on offer. ‘Gambler’s Roll’ doesn’t revolutionize Rock n Roll, but stick with it and you will be rewarded with a beautifully silky solo that lifts the track out of the okay and into the OKAY! League.
Indeed, it’s the musicianship that pulls this disc out of the good and into the great. That, and the sheer enthusiasm behind every lyric and lick. The shuffling, busy beat of ‘Lovin’ might do us good’ will have feet tapping from Glasgow to Gelsenkirchen and every venue in between. He’s a big lad is Stevie Nimmo, but forget the tough exterior, there won’t be a dry eye in any of those venues if he swaps his Les Paul for an acoustic number as sweetly moving as ‘Love you more tonight’.
Did I mention that this disc was recorded in ten days that were somehow shoe-horned out of a busy touring schedule? It’s a schedule that certainly has the band tight as a ducks you know what, but also a schedule that doesn’t seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the big Man or his comrades in musical arms one iota. When a band’s this good together you really don’t want, or need, a lot of playing around with the music – ‘plug n play’ is perfect.
You possibly think you know what to expect on this release – and you wont be disappointed for sure. You will though possibly be very pleasantly surprised by the depth and diversity on offer. So put down those ipads, take your nose out of that cellphone, and don’t be afraid of the real world outside – Sky won’t Fall after all!
(all concert photos shown from Spirit of 66, Vervier c.3songsbonn.com)