The concept of soulfulness transcends both race and age; one doesn't need to be black or old in order to have soul. Case in point is singer /harmonica player Darrell Nulisch.
Darrell Nulisch has soul.
He's also the model of consistency. Every single CD he's released throughout his long musical career has been as good, or better, than the one before it. His latest, Times Like These, continues this pattern. To put it succinctly, this is an excellent album.
The disc opens with "Lonely Man," an up-tempo Texas blues shuffle, featuring Nulisch's charcoal rich voice, Jon Moeller's tasteful guitar and the solid horn section led by soul veteran Willie Henderson.
The first few notes of cut two, "Handle It With Care," will have you grabbing the liner notes to find out who wrote the original version of what sounds like a classic '60s soul chestnut; instead, this smooth, soulful tune is a Nulisch composition, although it covers the same territory traversed 40 years ago by singers like Arthur Alexander. Benji Porecki's B-3 solo puts the icing on this piece of gourmet cake.
The versatile Nulisch then changes gears to bring forth a mid-tempo Chicago blues, "Something Else," with his hard driving harmonica work and Porecki's delightful piano work.
It's back to more of a soul bag with one of the few covers on Times Like These, as Nulisch and especially the horns give the classic "Don't Look Back" a Tyrone Davis-style treatment. Moeller is then given a starring role on the slow, mournful O.V. Wright-ish original "Good Thing."
Moeller steps into the spotlight again on the Ray Charles seasonal blues, "The Snow Is Falling." If there was a Grammy category for 'Best Blues Guitar Licks on an Independent Recording,' then Moeller would certainly receive a nomination for this one.
Nulisch would sound great on this CD even if he performed every song a cappella, but it's the players behind him that really make Times Like These the gem that it is. Still another sterling performance comes on the pleading soul title cut, with Porecki punctuating the song with numerous awesome organ breaks.
The up-tempo "That's A Good Idea" has Nulisch doing more of an Otis Redding thing, with the horns being given plenty of room to get funky. This is another great number that recalls the style of a bygone era without slavishly recreating it.
That last statement pretty much sums up this great disc. These songs all could have been recorded 35-45 years ago, yet they all sound so fresh and invigorated that Times Like These will undoubtedly rank as of the best of 2003.
--- Bill Mitchell
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