Wisconsin-born guitar-slinger Jared James Nichols is a throwback to when rock was wild, young and free. His latest album is a collection of song that hit you wham, bam, in and out, with most tracks coming in under the three minute mark. Do they get you under their spell? Let’s find out.
A whirring echoing guitar stretches through your speakers, drums roll out and a fast beating rocker with a hookline chorus rings out for the next couple of minutes on opening gambit ‘Last Chance’. It ain’t original but it’s far from broke and hits the spot nicely. It’s followed by the heavy gospel rock over a grungy metal delta blues of ‘The Gun’ – There’s a neat distorted guitar solo here, but it’s the Def Leppard/Queen style stacked harmonies throughout that draw your attention, with a couple of high pitched groans of the Percy Plant variety to end the song on vocally.
‘Don’t Be Scared’ features a hard-edged askewed Free style riff with a deep bass underpinning the motion with some Rival Sons atmospherics for good measure. There’s a talk-box guitar solo, but aside from that guilty pleasure, the song rates high among this collection. ‘Honey Forgive Me’ follows next ad couldn’t be more different. An oddly pop funk hanging-out on the East coast vibe permeates going into a slow kinky blues solo with a little bit of country blues rock ride on the side. Jessica Childress adds backing vocals on this one.
Awash in sultry slide guitar ‘Home’ is a tale of end-of-tour longing of the Southern rock variety, while ‘Got To Have You’ is an upbeat rhythm & blues shuffle with an early Stones/Kinks feel heavied up with chorus harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place on an Aerosmith album.
Drum crash out and drive ‘End Of Time’ that offers a treated guitar riff, punctuated by “whoah-whoas” and a wiry feedback squeaking away in a cool grandstanding manner that is all too brief. ‘Run’ opens in a familiar Skynard/Bad Company arena rock style then chinks away on a chord, building with an organ playfully underneath and rising into a harmony chorus. A precise melodic solo is heard but again it could do with hanging round for a couple of bars more.
Nichols sounds like Pat Travers on ‘Keep Your Light on Mama’ both with his vocal inflections and its guitar pyrotechnics on hard blues rocking number. Hard gigging one Travers over to a British audience back in the day and there’s another similarity. Black Magic ends with ‘What Love’ a bass lolloping in between some dirty scratchy slide boogie, not so much a bang but a slight change of tune and it keeps you listening right through to the end.
The order of the day with Black Magic is that if particular song doesn’t grab you, move on. This is all meat no wastage. They’re like blueprints and the ones that work best you can see him playing live, extending and find a greater depth than beyond what we hear.
Producer Tony Perry has put his focus on vocals throughout; whether that’s Nichols delivering it raunchy or mellow he phrases well, but beyond that there are harmonies at work and while you make think they take the grind out the rock, they don’t. Enjoyable stuff, but next time round let’s hear this guitarist roaring away when he solos a little longer, don’t keep the good stuff just for when people see him live.