Where Nick Moss began and where he is today couldn’t possibly be any more of a polar opposite – in a good way. From cutting his teeth as a young sideman to a who’s who of Chicago blues greats like Jimmy Dawkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, to preserving the storied legacy of Windy City backdoor slam in his own outfit, The Flip Tops, Moss has proven that, if he chose to accept such credentials, he could’ve been the heir apparent to that metaphorical torch passed from said elder statesman.
However, a good 15 years and change removed from his solo debut, Nick Moss instead chooses to further the genre by nonconformist leaps and bounds – “Time Aint’ Free” simply obliterates any remnants of a walled-in Chicago quagmire.
On a seemingly self-driven musical reawakening since his 2010 “Privileged” record, it’s not that Moss has forgotten his roots – far from it. There’s plenty of blues turbulence played to the frays of urban impudence, as displayed in the hard-knuckled groove of the decidedly Son Seals-inspired “Tell Me Somethin’ ‘Bout Yourself” (with lead vocals by Moss’s not-so-secret weapon, rhythm guitarist Michael Ledbetter). What Moss is masterfully turning into, though, is an interpreter of styled Southern phrasing and gradated funk sweeps and tickles. Check out “Light It Up” for an exercise in slip ‘n’ slide, Little Feat country honk, or “Fare Thee Well” for a Johnny “Guitar” Watson-styled lesson in lowdown, minor-keyed cool.
Everything about Moss’s current musical lot in life says he’s settled into himself as a songwriter, bandleader, and guitarist; he’s comfortable, yet still able to challenge himself at every turn. Look to “I Want the World to Know” for a slice of Allman-leaning jam, Moss’ burgeoning Warren Haynes-centered multiplicity out in front – song-serving fountains of tone slide easily among daring rhythmic textures, keeping the listener off guard yet blanketed in a sweet, endless grind.
If “Privileged” was Nick Moss’s declaration of independence, then “Time Ain’t Free” is the final draft of his constitution – a defiant, R&B swagger that signals a stylistic vision for the future, done his way.
Nick Moss Band ‘Time Ain’t Free’ Rating: W W W W W