Perhaps the secret behind Nicholas David’s organic, natural sound is as simple as letting the music arise organically and naturally. There was no apparent rush to create Yesterday’s Gone, released three years after With These Hands. In fact, his time spent opening for, and playing with the Devon Allman Project, seems to have been the catalyst behind the musical connections and inspirations that define his newest album. Recorded in New Orleans with the guiding hand of Samantha Fish, the team of David (vocals, keys), Duane Betts (guitar), Jonathan Long (guitar), Charlie Wooten (bass) and Scott Graves (drums) deftly blends southern soul and blues into an earthy, 11-song collection.
Sharing a similar timbre with its predecessor, Yesterday’s Gone heavily features David’s voice, and it sits high in the mix throughout the album—as it should. Its raw richness serves as the natural focus, but the songwriting and instrumental accompaniment are equally impressive. The mostly upbeat tracks all boast lush, warm, analog sounds that vary in number and amplitude as the songs require. The production is meticulous without being overwrought.
“Hole in the Bottom” sets the tone for much of the album with a heavy emphasis on David’s voice, piano and organ leads, and a willingness to make dynamic changes within individual songs. An understated guitar solo carries the second half of the tune up to the gentle revisitation of the main piano theme. “Heavy Heart” changes tempo, but maintains many of the same characteristics, namely, great playing and an honest, soulful feel.
The first true standout, “With or Without,” begins with and builds around a memorable melody delivered through a dual-guitar harmony. As much as David can carry a song on his own, the shared spotlight with another musical aspect really brings the track to fulfillment. Jazzier than its album-mates, “Curious” employs the same focus-shift away from David’s vocals, and towards the accompaniment that usually buoys the song and the singing.
A true New Orleans gumbo has to include a touch of R&B and a smattering of soul; “I’m Interested” and “Peel Back the Leaves,” respectively provide those ingredients. “Times Turning” opens with an emotive, cascading piano progression that shares space with the album’s most poignant lyrical verses. Immediately contrasting the simple structure of “Times Turning,” “Stars” shines as a multipart composition with an anthemic chorus. Between those two numbers and “With or Without,” a case can be made for any being the best song of the set.
“Little by Little,” a fun, jangly number, closes the album with a Crescent City flavoring of sounds. Yesterday’s Gone’s many components all play their part in making this album a winner. First listenings will undoubtedly gravitate towards David and his mellifluous voice, but each subsequent visit will peel back another layer of the sonic onion. “Peel back the leaves, just one more day, break off the bark, so the roots will stay.” Nicholas “Family Man” David and his cohorts plant profoundly deep roots on this effort.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– With or Without
– Times Turning
The Big Hit
Review by Willie Witten