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Album review: Josh Nolan, FAIR CITY LIGHTS

Fair City Lights, the debut album of Kentuckian Josh Nolan, wears its influences the way an old man wears his jailhouse tats — the jagged ink not only sits there on the surface for everyone to see, it also burns in the skin, through the layers, into the marrow. It’s not just part of the old man; in a lot of ways, it’s who he is.

I’m guessing music is that tattoo for singer-songwriter Josh Nolan. It’s not just a part of him; it’s who he is. 

The classic bloodlines come through clean when you listen to Fair City Lights – bits of Springsteen there, Ryan Adams over here, John Prine and Neil Young, and Tom Waits over there, with lesser gods like Colin Linden, Loudon Wainright III lurking around the edges. But really, that’s all you hear – bits of the classics. Tributes, really. The rest is absolute, pure Josh Nolan, running his influences through a cement mixer, creating something unquestionably his own, singing about small town hearts and big-city dreams in a way that I haven’t heard in a long time.

In a world filled to the point of bursting with ironic songwriters and cookie cutter folk acts, it’s good to hear some straight up rock music again.

Though Nolan’s influences are apparent, he’s not running away from them. At times he even seems to be playing a game with his audience, tossing in the occasional ‘70s songwriter lyric or musical reference, just to see if we’re paying attention. “Between the Lights,” the album’s Mellencampesque finisher (Mellencampesque? Has that word been used before?), features an extended, rapid-fire string of references that start with Springsteen’s “Mary’s dress sways as the screen door slams” then rolls on through Bob Seger, (“way out past where the woods got heavy”), Don Maclean (it all dried up, but we made it to the levy”), and more.

In a lot of ways, Fair City Lights isn’t just a throwback, it’s a time capsule. These songs feel right at home in the rotation with the aforementioned Prine, Waits, et. al.. And let’s not forget Springsteen. Above all, Springsteen floats above this record like a favorite uncle looking down from Heaven – and not the bombastic, quasi-religious, borderline self-parody Springsteen that’s roamed the earth since he got the E-Streeters back together in the early 2000s, either. No, Josh Nolan has more in common with the early Springsteen, the Greetings from Asbury Park/Born to Run/Darkness on the Edge of Town/The River Springsteen, in no small part because his own natural voice sounds not just a little like the Boss of that era. Songs like“Come Mornin’”and “Do It Right” echo folky Bruce perfectly, while the screeching guitar (and accompanying glockenspiel) that opens “Waitin’ on the Night” proudly gives a shout out to Born To Run in a way that few folks even attempt these days.

That’s not to say that Fair City Lights is some shallow whipped-cream imitation of the real thing. Truth be told, it’s far from that. As any drink snob can tell you, the best wine or bourbon is so much more than the sum of its ingredients. I’m no alcohol connoisseur – I’ve never been able to taste plums or currants in my cabernet no matter how much the label says they’re in there –  but I damn sure know great music when I hear it. Josh Nolan and Fair City Lights fit the bill.

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Fair City Lights hits itunes, Amazon.com, and Spotify, among others, on April 4. Visit Josh Nolan at joshnolanmusic.com

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Facebook contest

Hey fans, friends, and followers,

There’s a little contest going on over at my Facebook page: when I hit 500 “likes” on that page, I’ll give TWO people a paperback copy of both Sewerville and Lost Change and Loose Cousins! When the page hits 500, I’ll put everybody in the drawing, pull out the two random winners, and then notify them via Facebook message.

As I type this, there are 400+ likes on the page already, so get over there. Click the big “thumbs up” and let’s do this thing!

(You can also like the page from the FB link at right.)

LOST CHANGE AND LOOSE COUSINS – get it!

The new book is now available! Lost Change and Loose Cousins is out in E-book now, paperback shortly, and when the paperback is released it will have an additional story – “Philosopher Dog,” by yours truly.

Strother Kevin Hall and I are happy to share this one with you. Go now, friends, and get the book here. And as always, please consider posting an Amazon and Goodreads your review of  Sewerville, Lost Change and Loose Cousins, and anything else you read.

Lost Change and Loose Cousins FULL COVER 06.28.13

Lost Change and Loose Cousins

We’ll be releasing the cover in a few days, but here’s a quick listing of the titles included in my half of Lost Change and Loose Cousins (co-authored with Strother Kevin Hall), out later this month:

“The Autobiography of Nobody”

Philosopher Dog: Issue One

“The Dead on Black River”

“Apep, the Darkness”

“The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles”

“Sewerville: The Lay of the Land”

As mentioned before, it’s a mix of new stuff and previously released. I will say, “Apep” and Philosopher Dog are my two personal favorites, and since those are both part of the new stuff, that ought to be all the incentive you need to buy the book. I may also include a little something called “Me and Pookie Down by the Meth Shack” if it’s finished in time. We’ll see.

Closer…

New book in June!

Okay, folks — I’m happy to say, it looks like the next book will release in June. Lost Change and Loose Cousins is a collection of short stories, essays, and other etcetera by both yours truly and Kevin Hall. Some of the material has seen previous e-release – like “The Dead on Black River” and “The Sweet Smell of Pine Needles” – but there is plenty of new stuff in there, too. I’m excited to finally share it with you.

More details will follow over the next few weeks. In the meantime LIKE and SHARE with all your friends on the interwebs (Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, wherever)!

‘ppreciate you!

Goodreads poll – Sewerville as a read of the month for June?

Everybody – Sewerville has been nominated as the June read of the month in the Goodreads reading group On the Southern Literary Trail. I thought it was nice to be nominated in a reading group centered around Southern literature, which is exactly the target audience for the novel.

Goodreads is a gigantic website, with tons of information for book fans of all stripes. If you already use Goodreads, consider voting for Sewerville; if you haven’t joined the site yet, this is a perfect excuse! Voting ends April 28.

Thanks, love you, bye.

Ebert.

Roger Ebert died today, as many if not most of you have already heard. There have been thousands of news reports and blog posts in the wake of his passing, and there’s probably nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already.

For people who love film, and writing about film, and writing about anything, the man was a giant of our culture. I have long believed that he was one of the best writers working in the last 50 years. He was a huge influence on me, both in terms of my love for movies and also my own writing. It is perhaps cliché to suggest it, but since cancer took his ability to speak a few years ago, he still spoke to more people than ever before through his work in print and on his blog.  Perhaps cliché – but no less truth. He will be missed.