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Back with album number two, 'Black Magic', US blues rock musician Jared James Nichols has succeeded in upping his already eminent game that was established on his debut full-length record, two years ago, 'Old Glory & The Wild Revival'. He showcased a ton of promise on his first full-length offering, and 'Black Magic' sees the Wisconsin singer/guitarist creatively capitalise on his firm 'Old Glory' foundations. Switching between up-tempo, mid-tempo and down-tempo compositions, there's one recurrent thread running throughout the album - it's a towering inferno of blazingly hot grooves and virtuosically fiery leads. Topped off with the raw emotions inherent in the smooth/gravel duality of his vocal delivery, it's a fine sophomore effort that's primed to take the LA-based artist to the next level.

There are no points to be scored for originality here. Regurgitated blues/rock genre idioms are rife. They underpin the entire record. Nichols is walking (and running) down well-trodden stylistic paths. But his irrefutably regurgitated genre affinity has been exercised and allowed to flourish within the context of some magnificent songwriting. Moreover, his groovy blues rock motifs have a natural fluidity in their execution. This doesn't sound like forced pastiche; rather, innate genre allegiance.

It has to be said, though - it's all a tad short. Apart from two songs that are just under three and a half minutes long, all others clock in at under the three minute mark. But its succinctity works in its favour. There's no faff, bullshit, or superfluous sonic padding to be heard here. At around 29 minutes long, it might be a bit of a blink and you'll miss it affair... but it must not be forgotten that some of the most seminal albums over the decades; those that have redefined genre and sub-genre idioms and/or engendered entire scenes, have been relatively short. At The Gates' 'Slaughter of the Soul' is a mere 34 minutes long but was, undeniably, a melo-death game-changer. Slayer's 'Reign in Blood' is just short of 29 minutes but remains, to this day, one of the most influential metal records of all time. Sex Pistols' 'Never Mind the Bollocks' is a fleeting 34 minute affair. And The Whos' 'My Generation' runs at just over 36 minutes. There've been many others, of course. My point here is that a genuinely great album is as long as it needs to be. Albums where there's no filler; just pure class (in terms of whatever subjectively semantic appropriation of 'class' that might be in any given context). While 'Black Magic' will indubitably never prove to be an innovative or seminal work that will define and inspire a generation of blues rock artists, it is a delicious platter of concise, dynamic tunes that are classy in their own right. And it sees Nichols take another step towards blues rock ascendancy.
Listenable Records
Review by Mark Holmes
27th October 2017
1) Last Chance
2) The Gun
3) Don't Be Scared
4) Honey Forgive Me
5) Home
6) Got to Have You
7) End of Time
8) Run
9) Keep Your Light on Mama
10) What Love
"...a towering inferno of blazingly hot grooves and virtuosically fiery leads."