For you listening consideration comes this interesting little 7-song EP from a guy you’ve never heard of named Nick Shoulders. Along with a backing band he calls Okay Crawdad, they spent a couple of days at Mashed Potato Records in New Orleans, Louisiana earlier this year cutting this record to tape with a crude yet effective setup, naming it Lonely Like Me. Simple and primitive as it is, it’s more than capable at capturing this Arkansas native’s quite stunning vocal qualities and style.
If artists such as Luke Bell and Pat Reedy suit your fancy, Nick Shoulders will slide right into your wheelhouse. But where these artists perhaps own a deeper arsenal of original songs at the moment, Nick Shoulders distinguishes himself by possessing an incredible, world-class high voice and yodel the likes of which we’ve rarely heard since the days of Slim Whitman. Almost other-worldly, the purity of this gift immediately awakens visions of the Singing Cowboy era in country, and all the vistas of the mind that era conjures.
You really have to look towards some of the most adept yodelers in country and roots of our time for peers of Nick Shoulders, people like Southern California’s Alice Wallace, and Vancouver, Canada’s Petunia in the Vipers to find this type of adeptness and control in singing quality. And it’s not just the yodel, but Nick’s whistling, throat trumpet, and general high vocal abilities that make Lonely Like Me a truly enchanting listen, however niche in appeal it may be.
The primitive, lo-fi aspect of this recording doesn’t inhibit the listening experience, it enhances it. It dials perfectly into the era Nick’s voice and songs look to evoke, with an eerily skillful understanding from all the musicians involved. This record hearkens back to the electification era of recorded music, where plugged-in instruments and readily-available recording equipment first emerged, and there was both a timidness, yet an excitement about the new soundscapes they could create.
While so many modern recordings attempt to add a vintage warmth to their projects that only results in muddying the input channels, Lonely Like Me has great space and separation, while also including distance and that sepia hue to the sound, imbibing it with the inviting tone of memory. If this record accomplishes nothing else, the production is something to study, even if the volume leaves some to be desired. Sam Doores of The Deslondes helped with the recording of this album, which makes perfect sense once you listen. Duff Thompson also lends a hand. This is a very New Orleans project in all the best ways.
Nick Shoulders covers a few potentially-recognizable songs, but in a completely unrecognizable manner, including Elvis Presley’s “Black Star,” Daniel Johnston’s “Tears Stupid Tears,” and “No Fun” by Iggy and the Stooges. However it’s his originals like the opening song “Snakes and Waterfalls,” and “Empty Yodel No. 0” that really draw you in. Lonely Like Me is not a songwriters record per se, but he writes smartly to his vocal strengths, and sets a foundation for where to go from here, if his ambition takes him beyond releasing music on BandCamp.
Certainly not for everyone, but for those who enjoy a vintage throwback sound or simply want to marvel at a truly gifted singer, Nick Shoulders and Lonely Like Me make for a real fine listen.
Okay Crawdad is Cas P Ian – Electric Guitar, Grant Daubin – Bass, Chelsea Moosekian – Drums.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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