There’s magic in these here riffs 

The fact he’s been a frequent visitor to England over the last few years means that MV has seen Jared James Nichols a lot.

At the end of every gig he’s played (that we’ve witnessed anyway) the Wisconsin born blues obsessed kid with the LA address and the surfer looks, has said “thanks for coming, this one’s called “Mississippi Queen”, if you know what I mean” and with that has played a blistering version of the Mountain classic.

He never looks happier than when he’s doing this, his blonde hair swinging in that archetypal axe-slinger mould. Now he’s back with 10 songs for his second album, and with “Black Magic” he’s bottled that feeling perfectly.

First thing to say is “Black Magic” is short, to the point and exceptionally sweet. The album clocks in at barely half an hour, but packs more in here than many bands would on an entire career.

Kicking off with current single “Last Chance” which races out of the blocks like a pacemaker on speed. It crackles with an urgency that brilliantly never leaves this collection.

There is a reason though that JJN has toured with artists as diverse as ZZ Top, Zakk Wylde, Glenn Hughes, Walter Trout, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Saxon and Scorpion Child. And it’s perfectly simple. It is that Jared and his band mates (and make no mistake here, although its under a solo name, the two other members Dennis Holm and Erik Sandin form a mighty engine room and are exceptionally important here too) don’t fit neatly into any pigeon hole.

He’ll be tagged as blues rock, of course, but he’s more than that. Take “The Gun” for example, where he seems to be channelling some kind of inner Robert Plant, or “Don’t Be Afraid” which not only gets massive bonus points for using some filthy sounding talk box, but also has a real gunge flavour.

A musician who had played 500 gigs by his 21st birthday, Nichols quite simply has the talent to do whatever he wants. “Honey Forgive Me” is a funky little strutter, and as befits a man who was once personally invited onto the stage by Gary Rossington to have a go at “Freebird” with Skynyrd, then he knows his way around Southern Rock too. “Home” with its marvellous keys work is a perfect example.

One of the album’s most overtly blues moments is “Got To Have You”, but here the use of the acoustic guitar in the mix gives it an airy feel, and this is juxtaposed brilliantly by the song which follows. “End Of Time” sweeps in with a swaggering groove and a mighty riff – it is designed for the live arena and this is where it will shine.

An album which burst out of the blocks hurtles towards the finish line too and it is impossible not to hear Paul Rodgers singing this as its Free infused rock n roll washes over you, and it’s particularly hard not to picture Sammy Hagar roaring “Keep Your Light On Mama” as JJN really lets himself go with some Ronnie Montrose type lead work.

One of the most interesting things on the record is “What Love” which ends things. The version they use is a one take demo which captures the raw essence of the track.

In many ways that works as a metaphor for the album as a whole too, because Jared James Nichols has done what many artists struggle to achieve and captured the thrill of their live shows. There is some special alchemy in “Black Magic”.

Rating 9/10

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