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Niecie - Wanted Woman
Self-release through Ride the Tiger Records, 10 tracks / 42:55
If you are an entertainer that is going to go by one name (like Sting, Cher or Bono), you had better have the talent to back it up, and Niecie passes this test easily. Niecie has moved all over the United States in search of the blues, and has done a marvelous job of honing her chops along the way.
Originally from Detroit, she left the Motor City for Chicago, where the blues found a home in her heart. From there she tried Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Boston (home of the Berklee College of Music!), but finally settled in Nashville, arguably the songwriting capital of the US. Nashville also has the distinction of being home to some of the finest musicians and producers around, and since moving there Niecie has taken advantage of this and cut three well-received albums, the latest of which is Wanted Woman. This album is a slick piece of work thanks in part to producer Johnny Neel, who you may know from his work with the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and Dickey Betts. Johnny also contributed on the keyboards and Hammond B-3, as well as with his songwriting skills. Other musicians on this project include Dennis Gully on bass, Chris Anderson on guitar, and Daryl Burgess on the skins. Also chipping were Danny Hamelin and Jon Conley on the extra guitar parts and Kim Morrison on backing vocals. Oh, and Niecie on lead vocals, of course!
Not being familiar with Niecie’s previous work, I did not know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised by how hard she can rock. There are eight original tracks with Neel getting writing credit on all of them, and Niecie on three. The content is huge sounding blues/rock, and things get up to speed quickly as ”Traffic Light” kicks the album off on an upbeat note. This song is more rock than blues, with a classic driving bass line and heavy drums that are perfectly executed by her stellar backline. The lyrics are quite funny, and she delivers each punch line right on cue with her distinctively throaty voice.
Niecie pitched in on the writing for the title track, and it is always cool to hear people sing their own stuff because it just clicks a little better. Johnny Neel helps make the mood on the intro with subtle organ and piano, and later on the catchy chorus with its vocal harmonics makes this an easy tune to get stuck in your head. She also wrote “Typical Chick,” a fun roadhouse song with thundering drums, honkytonk piano and very tasty guitar solos.
The two cover tunes are really neat. “Crying for My Baby” is a number that was penned by Harold Burrage in 1960 for Vee-Jay Records. The simple lyrics are timeless, and Niecie belts them out with a soulful wail that does them justice. “Mother Nature” is her take on Little Milton’s often-copied song, though this one clocks in at over nine minutes thanks to some amazing work on the keys from Johnny Neel and plenty of Zeppelin-esque guitars throughout. Both of these songs work in well with the other tracks on the album, and it was wise to include them in the mix. By the way, I have added “Mother Nature” works so well that I added it into the mix of music that I listen to while I write.
The CD finishes up with a testimonial, “God’s Got This,” which I have to assume is autobiographical because Niecie got writing credit for it. It has a 1970s funk feel with heavy synths, organ, popping bass and syncopated guitars galore. It is not preachy by any stretch of the imagination, but it lets you know where this lady stands, and it is always good to finish an album on a positive note.
Niecie has put in a lot of hard work since she first arrived on the Chicago scene three decades ago, and it has all paid off with her latest album. This is a great collection of well-written songs that were recorded by the best in the business, and she should be proud of what she has accomplished. I hope you get a chance to give it a listen! - Rex Bartholomew