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March 2003

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Nick Curran
Doctor Velvet

Blind Pig

Nick Curran - Doctor Velvet

It was only a matter of time before a major label scooped up the creative brilliance of Nick Curran. Blind Pig was the big winner with Nick’s third release, Doctor Velvet.

This recording picks right up where Nitelife Boogie (reviewed in Blues Bytes Oct. 2001) leaves off with Curran’s own unique blend of west coast swing/jump blues, Memphis-flavored rocakbilly and gut-busting juke joint stomp stirred together with a dash of R&B and West Side Chicago guitar licks that rock the house for 13 very enjoyable cuts. Joining Nick once again are two remarkable players that make up his road band --- Eric Mathew Przygocki, plucking the upright and Fender basses so finely, and the saxophone wizardry of ‘The Rev.’ Murph Motycka, blasting away on tenor and baritone.

This album explodes out of the starting gate, with Nick growling out the vocals of the title tune against a hip swaying backbeat that surrounds a rather jazzy solo from Curran and some honky tonk piano riffs from Matt Farrell, who tickled the ivories on Nick’s debut, Fixin’ Your Head.

A superlative cover of “Lonesome Whistle Blues” follows, with the plush guitar phrasings of Jimmie Vaughan filling in quite smoothly alongside Nick’s playing.

The first of six originals is “Driving Me Crazy,” a moody tale of opposite sex frustration, featuring some greasy harp from Gary Primich and Curran’s powerful vocals pleading the lyrics. The spirit of Louis Prima is saturated throughout the bouncy retro 40’s/50’s-ish styled “Don’t Be Angry,” while another Curran original, “Please Don’t Leave Me,” possess a street corner doo-wop sound rich in harmonies.

A searing version of “Midnite Hour” and “One More Time” are two of the album’s best numbers. But it’s the shuffling original, “Can’t Stop Loving You,” that takes the prize for best cut of this collection, featuring Gary Primich and Jimmie Vaughan each adding a few hot licks.

Wrapping this joyride of a record up are a trio of tunes that are in direct contrast with one another, but blend together in sequence to a satisfying climax. “Beautiful Girl” swings to a big band styled arrangement, while a cover of Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart” is rich in country twang accented with a slight jump to it.

The lone instrumental boogie, “Stompin’ At The Fort,” will evoke memories of smoke-filled roadhouse juke joints and men in zoot suits twirling gold pocket watches. All three numbers share the same common denominator, which is Nick Curran tearing his instrument loose from its hinges.

This sparkling third effort leaves no doubt that this man is by no means another flash in the pan young blues guitarist that seem to crop up every other week lately and are never heard from again once the novelty wears off. Quite the contrary, Mr. Curran is a major force to be reckoned with in today's blues scene due to his 'wise beyond his years' approach and knowledge of his instrument, his songwriting skills, and his vocal abilities, the latter which continue to graduate to the next higher level with every subsequent release.

A line from from the album’s title track states: “Take heed all you cats that don’t believe, I’ve got whoopie dust up my sleeve, I can cure your blues from your head to your toe.” I don’t know if it’s exactly whoopie dust that Nick Curran has up his sleeve. But one thing is for sure, he has one hell of a talent that is going to make believers of many people for years to come.

Miss this one if you dare.

--- Steve Hinrichsen

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