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Niecie - Trouble With A Capital T
Self-release through Ride the Tiger Records, 11 tracks / 45:47
Based in Nashville, singer Niecie is back with her fifth release, once again featuring Johnny Neel (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule) on keyboards as well as filling the role of producer on the project. Niecie collaborated with Neel on writing three songs, with help from guitarist Doug Jones, who appears on one track. Neel and Jones were involved in fashioning three other songs, including two with another notable songwriter, EG Kight. The end result is an exciting playlist that offers plenty of variety and musical delights.
The opener, “Thank God For Fools,” is a hard-driving rocker set up by Chris Anderson’s biting guitar work. Then Niecie jumps into a funky dance workout, “Memphis Stomp,” her voice urged on by horn riffs from Richard Griffin on saxophone and Joe Gross on trumpet, plus Melissa Alesi on backing vocals. A second tune that Niecie wrote with Kim Morrison, “Two Can Play That Game,” delivers a clear message to an unfaithful lover, propelled by Dennis Gulley on bass and an unidentified drummer. The horns return on “Sweat,” as Niecie gets lowdown and sassy. Shaun Murphy’s presence on backing vocals adds an extra dimension to the track, as does Griffin’s wailing solo. The title track gives the singer another opportunity to make it clear that she is no one to be trifled with. The popping bass line is courtesy of Randy Coleman, who plays on five other cuts, and Joe Conley lays down a distinctive guitar part. “Lighter Shade Of Blue” is less memorable as Niecie never quite finds her vocal comfort zone.
Standout tracks include “Baby It’s Working,” a vibrant rocker that sounds like it was pulled from the Rolling Stones catalog, with Lori Beth Hogan on backing vocals, and “Just This Side Of Memphis,” a traveling song with Niecie’s voice dishing out the witty lyrics with a bit of country twang and soulful grit. The twin guitars of Jones and Johnny Duke play off of Neel’s layered keyboard efforts while Randy Russell and Jesse Meeks handle the backing vocals. Neel’s piano playing on “Two Sides To Every Story” echoes the heartache in Niece’s tormented tale of betrayal. He doubles on on piano and organ on “Waiting For The Next Shoe To Drop,” undoubtedly the highlight of the disc. His organ chords simmer in the background as Niecie takes her time with an intimate, nuanced vocal that burns with understated, searing intensity.
It is getting harder and harder to find recordings that manage to combine strong vocals and fine musicianship on a batch of songs that deserve to be heard more than once. Well, look no more. Niecie and her musical cohorts, under Johnny Neel’s outstanding leadership, have put together a disc that checks all of those boxes. So pick up a copy and give Niecie a chance to sooth your worried mind…..
- Mark Thompson