|Jeb Loy Nichols: Now Then
Bongo Beat Records
2049 Melrose Ave.
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I am going to personally state on the record that this is one of the finest albums on my roster, something so fully formed and beautiful, it will continue to resonate and unravel its wonder long after you and I are long gone and forgotten. Like the best of Al Green or Marvin Gaye, this CD is perfect from beginning to end; a smooth and subtle sexual menage a trois of reggae, country and soul.
— Ralph Alfonso, owner, Bongo Beat Records.
Jeb Loy Nichols was born in Wyoming and raised in Missouri. A singer-songwriter whose first love of music came in the form of a Kansas City radio station that played country during the day and soul music at night he was raised on the sounds of Hank Williams, Bobby Womack, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield.
In his teens he moved to Austin, then to New York in the late 70s and on to London in the early 80s where he befriended and shared a house with Neneh Cherry, producer Adrian Sherwood, and Ari Up of The Slits. In London, he synthesized his love of punk, soul, and reggae music into the sounds of his first band, The Fellow Travelers who blended country-tinged, acoustic-based songs with a dub bottom. Spin Magazine described them as "the lonesome children of Merle, Marley and Marx".
Jeb's solo career started at Capitol Records with the incredible Lover's Knot (1997). Now Then is his fourth album and was produced by Mark Nevers in Nashville. The band was a mix of young and old; Mark brought some members of Lambchop while Jeb brought Muscle Shoals veteran Clayton Ivey and soul legend Dan Penn. They then brought the tapes back to London where they recorded bassist Wayne Nunes (Tricky, African Head Charge) and backing vocals by reggae legends Roy Cousins (The Royals) and Struggle. It's by far Jeb's best album since his debut.
In 2000, Jeb Loy and his wife Loraine Morley moved to Wales where they're slowly reclaiming ten acres of neglected scrub land, renovating a barn and putting in a large garden. "I'm sure I'll move again", he says, "but not just yet. This feels good, feels like some-thing close to home."
Now Then is a remarkable record, a masterpiece of distilled soul. "This is the record I've been leaning towards," Jeb says, "all these years, all this moving around, all this listening and watching." Hard bargains and divided families, absconders and runaways, holy dread and love, it's all here. The record pulses with seductive stories that talk of shifting fidelities and damage limitation.
"I knew I wanted to make this record in Nashville", Jeb says, "because Nashville is nowhere I'd ever want to live. I love Nashville, but it's definitely not home. And I wanted that feeling of being unfixed. And I wanted to work with Mark Nevers." Mark Nevers, member and producer of Lambchop, producer of Will Oldham, seems at first an odd choice to work with. But "Mark's great," says Jeb, "the best in the world. I've known him for awhile and he brought the exact right feeling. Dirty and perfect and warm and unexpected."
The record was recorded in five days in Nevers' studio in Nashville. It brims over with conversations between players, between genera-tions, between countries and cultures. The same give and take that Jeb first heard on southern soul records is updated here. "It was great to be a part of it, to watch it. To listen to everyone playing off each other. That's the point - to tell stories, to listen, to be a part of something bigger and better than yourself."
"The sheer spare elegance of NOW THEN is startling."
— All Music Guide
"Above all, it is the cohesive feel of the album that makes it so rich... an absolute gem, no question."
— Record Collector