We’ve talked about the Nick Moss Band quite a bit here in recent years, and the invitation to participate in the inaugural U.S. offering of the Lead Belly Fest at NYC’s Carnegie Hall earlier this month (and not just because the band’s vocalist Michael Ledbetter happens to be a great-great nephew of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter himself, although we’re sure that did help) on the same stage as such acts as Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Burdon and Walter Trout is a good sign of the band’s growing reputation as one of the best blues-oriented jam bands on the scene today.
With a new double studio CD (From the Root to the Fruit) just announced for May release, we figured it might be a good time to take a look at the band’s latest project, an 8-song live album recorded last May at the Baltic Blues Festival in Germany that is every bit as Live and Luscious (Blue Bella Records) as its title promises. Included are a few songs that longtime Moss fans might recognize from earlier projects, in the title track from Moss’ Time Ain’t Free album, a shuffling, groove-filled “Try to Treat You Right” (the opening track from Moss’ 1998 debut First Offense), and a slow, simmering 12-minute take on Jimmy Reed’s “The End” that varies greatly from the version heard on Moss’ earlier Live at Chan’s album and, with its plentiful, often stinging guitar, positions Moss among such other greats as Peter Green and Walter Trout.
Fortunately for us, though, this is really just the beginning, with lots more great music to be heard, offering a nice preview of several tracks from the upcoming From the Root album. Among them are the rock-steady opener “Breakdown” that gets things grooving from the start, as well as an extended version of Moss’ commentary on the Ferguson police shooting and riots in the flowing “Shade Tree”, a soulful, nearly 13-minute jam that is just as good as anything you’ll hear from the Allman Brothers, with lyrics that talk of blood in the streets and a repeating chorus of “it’ll never be the same”.
In addition to helping out on both lead vocals and guitar throughout the album, Ledbetter also wrote three of the tunes, the first coming just two songs in with the extremely soulful “Catch Me I’m Falling” that’s sort of a modern-day equivalent of the kind of stuff Sam & Dave used to do, combined with some funky, Peter Frampton-like wah effects on guitar. Yes, we do feel you, Mike…
Taylor Streiff, Nick Fane and Patrick Seals round out the band on keyboards, bass and drums, respectively, with Streiff really having the chance to shine on songs like “Try to Treat You Right” and “Time Ain’t Free”. Don’t let the number of tracks fool you when it comes to getting your money’s worth: the songs here all clock in somewhere between the 6- and 13-minute mark, with plenty of solos from both Moss and the others, not to mention some interesting touches along the way, such as when Moss works in a few bars of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” near the close of the Ledbetter-penned “I Dig” (one you’re sure to dig too).
It’s likely no accident that the band chose to wrap up the album on the creeping, somewhat psychedelic number entitled “Stand By”, which is exactly what a lot of us will be doing as we eagerly await that double studio album from Moss and his band, with Live and Luscious providing a satisfying taste of what’s to come.
Nick Moss’ time has come today with Time Ain’t Free
Nick Moss kickstarts 2014 album with soulful single “I Want the World to Know”
Generous servings of guitar, family-style blues help define 2012 Heritage BluesFest
Nick Moss makes another bold statement on Here I Am
On Privileged, a rolling Moss gathers some rock