Here in my home town of Hull there is Wrecking Ball Music & Books, a great old-school record shop selling CDs and vinyl, as well as various merch and an array of books, many of which are produced by Wrecking Ball Publishing. Not content on stopping there, the shop added the Wrecking Ball Café, and then the Wrecking Ball Arts Centre venue upstairs which has played host to a variety of acts like Spike from the Quireboys, Russ Ballard, Rhino’s Revenge, Romeo’s Daughter and many others. Now they have expanded further into Wrecking Ball Sounds, a fledgling record label.
Their second release is the new album ‘Reflections’ from the Les Nicol Project. A guitar player who has been in the business for decades, Nicol is a seasoned professional who has recorded and toured with various acts, the most notable being Leo Sayer during the 1970s. ‘Reflections’ sees him playing a selection of well-crafted originals in a Blues Rock style. In the interest of full disclosure, I was hired by Wrecking Ball to create the artwork for the CD release, but upon hearing the finished product, I felt it was more than worthy of a review, because the album boasts some very classy material.
‘Darkside’ sets the tone right from the off, a smokey barroom Blues workout with a throbbing bassline and tastefully executed licks from Nicol. Vocalist Derk Gallagher, who has previously worked with Trevor Bolder (Uriah Heep/Spiders From Mars), has a powerful voice with a Bruce Dickinson-esque vibrato and he delivers the lyrics with gusto.
‘Keep On Moving’ is a more breezy tune with Nicol’s fretwork dancing elegantly around Gallagher’s impressive vocals, before ‘Open Your Eyes’ introduces a more jazzy flavour to proceedings. The tempo picks up with the foot tapper ‘That’s No Lie’ which would clearly go down a storm live, whereas the piano led lament of ‘Don’t Listen To Me’ shows Nicol to be a versatile composer and Gallagher to be a singer who can effortlessly switch styles accordingly.
‘You Know Why’ is one of the album’s gentler moments while ‘Memories’ rides along on the rock solid groove from bassist Gary O’Neal and drummer Jon Dawson. Nicol shows his superiority as a guitar player and the song benefits greatly from The Priory Blues Band’s Diane and Nick Skorecki, who add excellent backing vocals and masterful keyboard flourishes respectively.
Closing the album out is a fun ditty ‘Cruel Old World’ which sees Ian Bolder (brother of Trevor) break out the dobro, with Nicol taking lead vocal duties over some accordion and peddle steel backing. It’s a pleasant, lightweight end to the record which was done pretty much live in the studio, as evidenced by the laughter of all involved at the end – they clearly enjoyed it and I, as a listener, did too.
Engineered by John Spence, who has worked on records by the likes of John Parr, Mostly Autumn and The Happy Mondays, with Ian Bolder producing, the album sonically sounds fantastic, and the eight songs on offer deliver a collection of quality over quantity. The Blues Rock scene is teeming at the moment with albums from the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, When Rivers Meet, Samantha Fish and Elles Bailey all being well received. ‘Reflections’ by the Les Nicol Project would not feel out of place in amongst them. Highly recommended.
The album is available from https://wreckingballmusic.myshopify.com/
Reviewer & Album Information
Reviewer: James Gaden
Label: Wrecking Ball
Genre: Blues Rock
Issue Reviewed In: Online Only