California is not known for its country music scene. Tiger Army, a psycho-billy rock group whose topics featured things like vampires and science fiction, never got country airplay. Now that we have that out of the way, we can focus on lead singer Nick 13’s solo venture into country music. Surprisingly … it’s good and as country as you can get. It makes me wonder why it took him so long to make the leap.
The album is filled with smooth, traditional-leaning songs from start to finish, sounding like something straight from the classic country vault. In the re-worked two tracks, “In The Orchard,” and “Cupid’s Victim,” Nick showcases his songwriting skills. The two songs have been reworked in a way that new listeners would never know that they were done differently in the past with a different sound. Nothing is out of place on Nick 13’s solo album.
Tiger Army have been a mainstay on the Warped tour, so it may be surprising for some fans to hear that Nick 13 could easily be seen performing at the Grand Ole Opry someday soon with this album. Coming from a rock group background, one would expect the album to be full of guitar riffs and heavy southern rock tinged songs; however, the solo effort is pure Honky Tonk.
In the opening track, “Nashville Winter,” Nick sings about leaving his home for Music City, which he really did for this record. It took Nick three years to put together this effort, and the smooth, fiddle and steel guitar-driven track is the moment you realize he was serious about this record. There’s usually a certain stigma attached to a singer of a different genre trying to cross-over into country music, but after the opening track any doubt of Nick’s credibility is all but vanished.
“All Alone” is another stand-out track on the album. This slower track is all tied together by the use of the stand-up bass. If you’re into Americana-style country or folk music, this is another great single to add to your collection. While his vocals aren’t outstanding, the eerie track is unique and stands up on its own on the album.
“Gambler’s Life” is a fast-paced rocking closing to the 10-song album that adds to its outlaw country vibe. This is my favorite track off of the album, with excitable guitar riffs and a sound that’s been missing in Nashville for a while. This album will not only introduce Tiger Army fans to the world of country music; but country music fans to the world of Tiger Army and Nick 13.
Overall, this album is a welcome addition to any country music fan’s library. A gem that may have been missed by the mainstream fans, Nick 13’s solo album doesn’t feel out of place for a second. While some of the album’s tracks at times start to sound the same, the creative lyrics and oldschool vocals make up for it. I wish there was another track like “Gambler’s Life,” but it’s a solid album as it is. What will be interesting is to see which direction he goes for his next album: will he go back with his band, or will he stay country? He’s proven that he could go either way and be successful.
If you’re into the pop-country sound of today’s country, this may be an album you’ll want to skip. If you’re into the folksy, classic country, Americana-feel then this is a must buy. Nick 13’s self-titled album is out now in the United States. For international fans, it will be available July 11th.
RATING: 7.5 out of 10.
Download: Gambler’s Life, Nashville Winter, Carry My Body Down, All Alone.