December 28, 2022

The universe hasn’t done Jared James Nichols any favours these last few years. The Nashville-based guitar-slinger released his debut album Old Glory & The Wild Revival in 2015, followed by Black Magic in January 2018. Although various singles and an EP followed, the Covid lockdown was followed by a messy broken arm which threatened to sideline him for good – as such, it’s a personal triumph for Nichols after five years to be able to release his third full album in January 2023. Simply named Jared James Nichols, it features some of those previous singles amongst its twelve tracks, and runs to 48 minutes in total.

Photo by David McClister

He fronts his power trio, playing no-nonsense hard rock that would fit neatly into any bar – Ted Nugent is the model that springs to mind. This set powers in with the driving powerhouse My Delusion, with the tempo only easing down marginally for Easy Come, Easy Go. Two features present themselves within a short time, firstly that he seems to have beefed up his guitar sound somewhat since Black Magic, which makes the solos slicker, creamier and basically just better in my opinion; secondly that his voice seems to have gone the same way, with a thicker, more jaggedly powerful tone. On the other hand, the vocals are mixed down a little for my taste, but that tends to throw more emphasis on the guitar, which can’t be a bad thing. Third song Down The Drain is a highlight of the set for me, and a wise choice for the album’s lead single. It’s a slower rocker with a definite 1970s classic rock vibe, and his voice seems to be warming up nicely too – check out the official video at the foot of this page.

The ghost of Hendrix comes though in the guitar intro to Hard Wired, with a measured drumbeat and a single bass note fading in before the slow rock rhythm starts up. There is a nice, light section at 1½ mins with random rimshots and drumbeats, before the track morphs into a slow, rumbling rock rhythm for the solo, building to double-speed as it progresses. Nice! Bad Roots features a four-to-the-floor Highway Star-style rhythm, but with the vocals a little more restrained, but either I’m getting my ear in a bit, or the vocals have come up in the mix to some degree. Skin‘n’Bone is another slowish, nostalgically heavy rocker, pure New Wave of Heavy Metal.

The tempo stays down for Long Way to Go, then the whole vibe gets a little bit freakishly psychedelic with the ominous chord structure of Shadow Dancer. The guitar is heavily effected on the intro and outro with a kind of theatre organ sound; a lot of weird, foggy background effects and multiple guitars bolster the verses, but his vocals are perhaps the heaviest so far. I thought the drum intro for Good Time Girl was going to roll into High And Dry by Radiohead for a few seconds, but a Led Zeppish backing riff put paid to that, and the following track Hallelujah is heavier still – the power chords would easily do service for Black Sabbath, with the 50’s rock’n’roll echo on the voice giving it a slight flavour of Deep Purple. As if it wasn’t heavy enough, the band drives into a manic double kick-drum rhythm towards the end.

Saint or Fool sounds like being an acoustic ballad for a few seconds, with a lo-fi vibe that gives the impression of recording it into a portable tape deck in an empty room, but then the band comes in over the top and we are in familiar territory again. The guitar solo is notable on this one; it’s initially coming out of the left speaker, but with a quick echo following a fraction of a second later from the right – Nichols belts out a rapid stream of notes, and the two lines cascade and interweave excellently. The set winds to a stop with the appropriately-named Out Of Time, with heavily phased drums providing another taste of psychedelia.

Nichols claims that his records are really an advert for his gigs; at a reported 6 feet 5 inches and with a rock god mane of flowing hair, he makes an imposing stage presence, and of course this kind of music was made to be played loud and live. For now though, it wont do any harm to hear him in your own living room, loud under headphones.

Jared James Nichols’ self-titled third album is out on 13 January 2023 via Black Hill Records