Gary Nicholson makes his living writing songs that country artists record, but like many, many people in Nashville's music community, his background -- and his heart -- lies deep in R&B, soul and blues music. The Sky Is not the Limit captures the side of Gary Nicholson that Nashville clubgoers have known for years.
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Nicholson's credentials are evident in the list of musicians who appear "courtesy of" -- meaning they're stars with their own record deals. Their appearances are all non-intrusive to Nicholson's music -- that is to say, they're not the main reason to check out this CD -- so they're listed at the end of this review. The same goes for the all-stars who make up Nicholson's club band, The Change.
Don't be fooled by the Strat on the cover of the CD. Nicholson's got a wall full of guitars at his home studio, including plenty of Gibsons. And don't be fooled by his country connections. Granted, Patty Loveless had a big country hit with "The Trouble With the Truth," but that's a testament to the quality of Nicholson's writing, the multi-stylistic appeal of his songs. His version of the same song, included on this album, would never be confused with anything remotely country.
The album kicks off with "Be Careful What You Dream," a basic pop/rock tune that (like most of the cuts) features Nicholson the singer more than Nicholson the guitarist. The title cut follows, with the bluesy groove that Nicholson is known for around town. Then he hits a nice soul groove for "The Trouble With the Truth." Bonnie Raitt contributes a sweet slide solo on the moody "Good Days, Bad Days." "Somebody to Love You" is your basic two-guitar rock and roll song, with Nicholson and Kenny Greenberg doing the guitar work. He goes on to cover all the blues/R&B bases, from acoustic resonator guitar accompaniment on "Shadow of a Doubt" to the wah-wah funk feel of "The Itch."
Nicholson sums up the experience of listening to this CD on "Faith in a Feeling." The song carries an ecumenical message -- everything's gonna be all right -- that could be applied to music as well: If it's good music, like this, everything really is gonna be alright.
Nicholson's guest list includes Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Vince Gill, Ivan Neville, Marshall Chapman, Ashley Cleveland, Lee Roy Parnell, Kevin Welch, Tracy Nelson, Felix Cavaliere, Lonnie Mack and Don Was. His band, the Change, plays most of the basic tracks on the CD and includes Kenny Greenberg, Michael Rhodes, Chad Cromwell, Reese Wynans, Randy Leago and Jonell Mosser.
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