Cry No More
Concord Music Group
The first time I ever heard Danielle Nicole belt out a blues number was with The Nortons and their cover of Shemekia Copeland’s “Married to the Blues” (John Hahn/Sally Tiven). To say I was blown away would be a major understatement. The singer/songwriter/bassist and Kansas City native puts every fiber of her being into her performance, both vocally and instrumentally, and her sound is truly chill-inducing. Her skills certainly have not gone unnoticed, as she became the first female to be awarded the prestigious Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist, Bass by the Blues Foundation in 2014.
Danielle is back with her second label release, Cry No More, the followup to her 2015 Concord Music Group debut, Wolf Den (produced by Anders Osborne). Bursting with blistering blues cuts and emotion-charged ballads, this 14-song winner boasts an array of esteemed guest guitarists. Danielle wrote or co-wrote nine of the 14 tracks and enlisted producer Tony Braunagel (who also co-wrote five of the songs). Braunagel had produced the last two Trampled Under Foot albums, Danielle’s former band with brothers Kris and Nick Schnebelen, so the comfortable, familiar rapport lent itself well to recording together. What truly stands out about this collection is Danielle’s developing maturity as she exhibits great vocal restraint. With one of the most powerfully soulful female blues voices out there, it would be tempting to overdo it, however, she does anything but.
Opening with the sultry, possessive “Crawl” and featuring brother Nick on guitar, Danielle sets the no-nonsense tone for the rest of the record with similarly themed tracks such as “Cry No More,” “Poison the Well,” “Save Me” (featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd), “Pusher Man” and “Someday You Might Change Your Mind.” Sonny Landreth lends his signature slide work on “I’m Going Home” while Walter Trout blazes out tasty blues licks on “Burnin’ For You.” The ’70s funk factor shines through as Danielle offers her interpretation of the Bill Withers-penned “Hot Spell,” an unrecorded song of his that he personally gave to Danielle to record. The poignant ballad, “My Heart Remains,” is beautifully complemented by “Monster” Mike Welch’s understated guitar. He is also featured on Danielle’s jaw-dropping Prince cover, “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore,” which quite possibly ranks as the crowning jewel among ALL of these gems. With brilliant organ work, this one literally is of hair-raising, spine-tingling caliber and showcases Danielle’s vocal range at its finest.
The biggest sleeper on the record just may be “Baby Eyes,” written by Danielle and once again exhibiting wide-spanning vocal scope and featuring her touring guitarist, Brandon Miller. As she belts out the jazzy, blues-tinged number, mental images of her draped across a grand piano oozing seductive lyrics into the mic spring to mind. The only other song written solely by Danielle is “Bobby,” a bittersweet roots/Americana piece written about her late father.
Closing out strongly with her own soulful, percussion-driven take of “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying” (famously recorded by Blind Willie Johnson) and backed by Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) on guitar, Danielle wraps up a mighty volume into which she poured her very heart and soul.
If you are a blues fan and/or someone who appreciates off-the-chain vocals, this record is a must-have for your collection. There is a reason that so many industry luminaries “get” Danielle Nicole and record with her, and she literally possesses one of the best blues/soul voices in today’s music biz. Pick up a copy of Cry No More and hear it for yourself. This gets a multiple thumbs up.