There’s a new blues/rock guitarslinger in town. Tall and lanky, he’s got the face of a young kid, but don’t let the looks deceive you—Jared James Nichols can hold his own with anyone, any age, anytime.
On the eve of his tour this spring, which will take him on dates throughout the U.S. and Europe, a select group of music industry insiders were treated to a private showcase at the Gibson Guitars Showroom in Beverly Hills. Nichols plays in the classic power trio format, which is music stripped down to the bare essentials. Dennis Holm on drums and bass player Erik Sandin are his musical counterparts.
The Gibson facility is where the company’s Artist Relations people are headquartered. It is a musician’s dream, with guitars from both the company’s inventory and noted musicians lining the walls. There is also a small live performance room where industry events are frequently held.
Given that environment, and the audience that included not only industry people but plenty of Nichols’ friends, one might forgive him if his performance mirrored the relaxed vibe of the venue. Ah…but if you think that, then you don’t know Jared James Nichols. From the second he stepped on the tiny stage, he made the most of every moment, exploding with energy as he blasted through the songs from his latest EP Old Glory and the Wild Revival.
Now, the analogy to a gunfighter is not unique, much as this reviewer would like to take credit for it. (Google “guitarslinger” and you will find countless references.) In this case, however, the term truly fits. Nichols poured every ounce of energy from the get-go into his playing and singing, as if he was playing for thousands of people, and not just a handful. Blackfoot, Can You Feel It, Sometimes, and Let You Go were songs off the EP that Nichols performed.
When the band is just a trio, each member has to be equally adept—there’s no room to hide weakness. Sandin was a worthy foil on bass to counter Nichols’ guitar fireworks. Not content to just play basic bass lines, he was all over the neck, proving himself to be a standout musician in his own right. (Incidentally, both Nichols and Sandin cut imposing figures not just musically, but visually too. Both are well over six feet tall, and with their lean profiles, long hair and jeans they could easily double as extras in a Western movie.) In contrast, Holm behind the drum kit looks like he was plucked out of a high school classroom. Talk about a contrast in appearances! His excellence in playing, however, showed that while he was young in appearance, he was no neophyte drummer at all.
The night ended with a raging cover of the Mountain classic Mississippi Queen. Given the preview that Nichols and his band mates put on before a select group of people in Beverly Hills, blues/rock fans in the United States and Europe are going to be in for a big treat this spring.