Darrell Nulisch: I Like It That Way

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Darrell Nulisch possesses one of the supplest, most heartbreaking male voices in contemporary blues and R&B. His last release The Whole Truth was a breakthrough album that garnered widespread critical acclaim. His new release is every bit its equal.

There's a pathos to Nulisch's vocals that only a handful of R&B singers can match. He's an excellent songwriter to boot, often collaborating with bassist Steve Gomes on sophisticated tunes that hark back to classic albums by Johnny Ace and Little Willie John, similar artists who also straddled that line between blues and R&B.

I Like It That Way has a classic blues and soul feel with occasional flashes of jazz. The crack rhythm section and polished horns provide a perfect backdrop for Nulisch's emotive voice. Particularly noteworthy is Benjie Porecki's versatile work on piano and organ, as well as Jon Mueller's Steve Cropper-like guitar.

For a blues release, I Like It That Way touches a lot of bases, including jazzed-up blues ("Mean Old World"), Smokey Robinson-style soul ("Getaway Place"), late-night blues ("After All"), and Stax-style R&B (Otis Redding's "Trick or Treat.") From the acute nervous blues of B. B. King's "Worried Dream" to the lonesome gospel of "Where My Baby Is" to the celebratory feel of the Nulisch-penned shuffle "Once in a Lifetime Love," the soul cuts deep on all 10 tracks. No matter the style, Nulisch's smooth honey-toned tenor wrings every bit of emotion out of the lyrics.

A founding member of Anson Funderburg and the Rockets and former lead singer with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Nulisch is a Dallas native who now lives in Boston. Last August I caught him in concert with James Cotton and Dave Maxwell, and take my word for it, this dude is the real deal.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better mix of mellow blues and upbeat R&B tunes, or a more capable vocalist to sing them. Strongly recommended.

Record Label: Severn Records

Style: Blues


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