Nick Waterhouse is, at the moment, one of the only true unashamed, unabashed and uncontrollable soul artists not only in the country but the world. He is sheer, chic and effortless like a Saville Row tie draped around a freshly ironed shirt. Waterhouse has long been a Far Out favourite ever since we stumbled across his album Time’s All Gone which had all the suave swagger of a sun drenched drive down the Western Coast, all glinting metals and rounded riffs; it was simply sublime.
So it was cause for innumerable pleasure when we received news of his latest album Holly due to reach our fair island this week on records. For those of you not familiar with Waterhouse’s background, he grew up in Venice Beach California and has since that point constantly strived and strained to reach a musical pinnacle of enlightenment; think of him like a smartly dressed muso-Kerouac; all heart, substance and dancing American dreams.
After the success of Time’s All Gone which among other things was a storming critical triumph, Waterhouse may seem a bit daunted. The first LP’s success was made possible by his own lyrical, soulful musings and all backed by upbeat rhythm, doo-wop horns and Americana coming out of its eyeballs, Waterhouse now finds himself at the foot of a very tall mountain to climb: ‘Mount Second Album’.
If you were expecting the usual change up in musical style to show some kind of maligned maturity then you will be very disappointed. Waterhouse is already matured, he has already found a sound that speaks for him and we are left in no doubt when High Tiding plucks its first chords. The precisely lazy sounding strings lead us carefully past the pounding drums and to the dronings of the killer King Bee himself. Full of slowed down sunshine and peaking chords we are led in to the classics with track 2; This is a Game.
This is classic Waterhouse, full of uptempo rhythm, piping horns and noodling surf rock guitars which drape the soulful lyrics of a modern-muso. We are then treated to a fantastic lo-fi cover of Ty Segall’s It No.3 which has all the fuzzing licks and tinkling piano you’d expect and leaves as affectionately as it arrives.
Holly the title track is a little less reserved and paces off the mark like the fabled Union Pacific, treading the West Coast and draping all that see it in bouncing r&b and salsa inspired horns. As you settle through the rest of the album the sense of authenticity is something which rings like a bell; measured, precise and glittering gold.
There is nothing contrived by this neo-soul which drips and dots 60’s style and oozes Americana. On comes the skiffled nostalgia of Well it’s Fine with minimal instrumentals with maximum impact, which in turn makes way for the anthemic organ filled A’int there Something Money can’t Buy?. It’s 60’s r&b persuasion lends itself perfectly to a quick-step corker of a chorus, with backing vocals simply repeating “M-O-N-E-Y”.
With the last track we are quickly scooted back to a smoke filled speakeasy where Waterhouse sits across the foggy room, ignored and an unwanted distraction from the pleasure of whiskey, he plays from the heart, slowly and with utter veracity.
That’s a good way to sum up not only this release but Waterhouse in general. Nick, like many of his friends, the fantastic artists The Growlers, Allah-Las and Ty Segall are proving to be the aforementioned speakeasy acts. Not only for their retro sounding albums or their 60’s inspired style, it is their unwillingness to jump the music industry hoop, especially hard in a time when you need to behead a politician to get noticed. They have their ideal, their ethos and they are entirely uncompromising in achieving it.
In short, as an exploration of the wastelands of the musical mind Holly may not hit all the notes you were hoping for. It is a definitive sound and Waterhouse is unlikely to differ from it. That reason alone is why this album is such an achievement, not only because of its fantastic production, the validity of the tracks and its fantastic combination of joy and misery but it’s unbridled authenticity in an era where so many bands are trying to sound like someone else; Waterhouse is that someone.