Nick Waterhouse: what
previously lost or undiscovered dimension did this cat arrive from? Seemingly
beaming in from out of nowhere, Nick Waterhouse arrives, fully born and full of
gritty soul, on his debut full length CD Time’s All Gone. I thought I
knew a thing or two about modern soul and R&B, but had never heard of
Waterhouse until the CD arrived at our local community radio station one day.
Turns out he has a previously released single (already madly collectable) and a
five song EP, and now this scorching full length. Also turns out he’s 25,
Anglo, hails from San Francisco
and splits the difference between elegant and stylishly nerdy in his sharp
suits and think rim glasses.
Putting an old twist modern
soul, Waterhouse looks back to the gritty, horn fueled R&B of the 1950s and
early ‘60s as a musical jumping off point. No sprightly, tightly syncopated
Motown, or Memphis-styled Hi or Stax Records grooves for this man. Think where
Jimmy Witherspoon, Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson or early 1960s, ‘Mighty Mouth’
Evans era Johnny Otis Show R&B got down and dirty. It’s R&B, sure, but
also shows how much urban blues and dirty jazz figured into the equation.
Musically, Waterhouse and his players could just as easily play the grind
houses of San Francisco’s
Tenderloin in the 1960s as an upscale club.
There’s a pleasingly consistent
groove to most of the material here. Virtually all the songs are built around
some variation of the same lower register, growling sax groove, with huge,
clattering drums playing just behind the beat, ala vintage Chess Records
recordings up through the mid 1960s. Fat bass lines – stand up, presumably –
Waterhouse’s piercing but minimal guitar, some organ and piano and plenty of
sexy back-up vx (by Natalie Alyse and Paige Sargent) fill out what is a modern
For an example of less is more,
check out “I Can Only Give You Everything,” where a few finger pops, huge
drop-outs by the whole band and the massive drums drive the song into a deeply
but slowly swinging space and park it with a hook that’s hard to deny. The same
basically holds true for “Say I Wanna Know” “Don’t You Forget It” and the
rolling “(If) You Want Trouble.” “Raina” is the most pop R&B number and
“Time’s All Gone” the most upbeat, while, thematically, “Indian Love Call”
harkens back to novelty numbers of previous eras.
Waterhouse sings this all in a
strong, slightly nasal, mid-range voice that can crawl either up or down the
scale as needed. It’s a distinctive voice, and one that should be his calling
card for many years to come. But what really sets Time’s All Gone on
the path to greatness is the combination of Waterhouse’s voice with great
songwriting, terrific musicianship, the pared-down arrangements and production
(by Waterhouse) and the straight-to-tape analog recording they did. In short;
this is a just a great sounding record. In truth; just great, period.
DOWNLOAD: “Say I Wanna
Know,” “I Can Only Give You Everything,” “Time’s All Gone,” “(If) You Want
Trouble” CARL HANNI