Nick 13 – Nick 13 (Music Review)

Nick 13 cover

Nick 13 - Nick 13

With his self-titled solo debut, Nick 13 joins the growing ranks of punk singers gone country. What makes this case unique is just how country it is. Most projects like this still let the punk roots show through and seem too rough to traditional country audiences. This is pure mellow music whose riffs and rhythm guitar strongly evoke open western vistas. Sparse soundscapes support his distinctive voice, with Nick 13 singing over a simple melody and the band contributing flourishes between his lines.

Of course, his band Tiger Army was always a little unusual in this regard. Their psychobilly-tinged rock was comparatively mellow and introspective, with Nick 13’s mellow, squeaky-clean voice sounding a little too innocent for their chosen scene. Despite their popularity, Tiger Army’s style never felt right to me. Even here, Nick 13’s voice sounds so soft that it’s easy to imagine the typical Western characters dismissing him as too soft and effeminate. He’d be the guy on the dude ranch that the grizzled ranchers joke about while sitting around the campfire. By the third act of the story, though, the sincerity and depth of this ex-city slicker would win them over.

The subject matter is traditional, with wandering, love, and regrets about vaguely-defined sins taking the forefront. A couple times, such as “Cupid’s Victim”, Nick 13 bases the lyrics on metaphors that would seem more appropriate to Tiger Army than a simple country song, but that’s the only (slight) hint that he isn’t native to this genre. And really, most modern country artists are defying tradition more than that.

If anything, Nick 13 is too faithful to the laid-back style he is using here. The songs are consistent and enjoyable, but there are no radio-ready singles here. Only the upbeat “Gambler’s Life” even attempts a catchy refrain or memorable beat, but it still seems understated and more at home on the album than as a single. It’s safe to say that he would consider this a feature, not a bug, and is not likely to make any standalone hits even if he releases more albums like this. It’s hard to argue with that, though: The ten songs found here have absolutely no missteps, and Nick 13 already sounds perfectly at home in this new band. There is enough musical and lyrical variety to keep this from being repetitive. If it is arguably all “filler”, it’s good filler.

Few punk singers have embarrassed themselves when dabbling in country, but they rarely sound completely natural either. At best, those works can be accepted as a progression after years of experience, but the punk history still informs the new work. Here, though, Nick 13 steps into his country western sound like it’s a second skin. In many ways, it seems that he has finally found his perfect niche. If Tiger Army ended to allow for more releases like this, I wouldn’t be disappointed at all.

Grade: B

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