REVIEW: Nicholas David’s “Yesterday’s Gone,” Produced By Samantha Fish, is Vocally Gritty


The voice is good, but some vocal lessons are still needed to smooth wrinkles in St. Paul, Minnesota’s Nicholas David’s performance. Be not deterred.

The 11-track LP Yesterday’s Gone (drops Nov 29 – Wildheart Records) was recorded in New Orleans & cool originals flourish. David’s obvious Dr. John-inflected vocal moments are worthy. His voice has sufficient soul, but not enough gumbo.

There are people who sing well naturally & professionals who is masterful with the artform. A vocal teacher would say the worst thing a singer does is hold notes on words that end in hard R’s. That’s evident here & while winning at The Voice is admirable those judges don’t focus on skills such as that. The word “yesteR-day,” should emote as “yesta-day.”

Paul McCartney knew this. Musical notes should always end on vowels so a note can be held easily. To hold a hard R at the end of a lyric is grating. When singer Frankie Valli (The Four Seasons) sang hard R’s in “Grease.” Many criticized him for it.

As for The Voice — I don’t have to remind readers how many “winners” have already been tossed on the has-been pile. Nicholas David, however, has an effective expressive grit to his voice. “I’m Polished,” nice groove is well-arranged & vocalized with a pinch of Joe Cocker finesse. The band coats the tune in retro-60’s sound with a touch of Meters horns, female back-up, funky drums & Nicholas’ vocal mannerisms. A value-added. As it should be. He excels with style & that’s what The Voice probably focused on.

Producer Samantha Fish wisely balanced the performance, but this is where the faults lie. She should’ve caught the hard R’s. Songs with this blemish would’ve sounded more punctuated. Listen to Elvis Presley’s attractive take on “Such a Night,” (not an easy song to sing), for an example of perfectly placed inflection & vowels. How certain difficult words are emphasized & twisted into compelling sound with music. Surrender is “surren-da” & remember is “remem-ba” & it moved along briskly. This was one facet of Elvis’ remarkable talent.

Nicholas does project well. If he had a more serene voice like Aaron Neville — who can turn a hard “R” into a vowel-effectively to hold a note. Nick would be that much better.

“Peel Back the Leaves,” & “Curious,” have issues but have momentum. “Curious,” is especially winning. None are real blues. These are finely tuned Southern-fried ballads with Delta-piano & solid melodies (“Times Turning”). I like Nicholas David’s tone. It’s his pronunciation that alienates the melody — sometimes. The soul of the voice needs to radiate — without humidity.

Mr. David plays keys with a reliable unit: Duane Betts (guitar), Jonathan Long (guitar), Charlie Wooten (bass) & Scott Graves (drums).

In closing, “Okay,” is light-hearted with sustenance. His blackest Howlin’ Wolf touch comes distinctively on the exceptional “Stars” where he excels with an edge. There’s a lot to like. It still needs some crimping & tightening but the material is solid. Nicholas is probably 2 LPs from a masterpiece. I hope he gets there.

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