6 tracks / 22:00
Though Danielle Nicole has just a single debut EP to her name, she is no stranger to the stage or the studio. You may know her better as Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, the lead singer and bassist for Trampled Under Foot, the IBC award-winning band out of Kansas City, Missouri. This group made a lot of hay since it was founded in 2000, with the zenith being the honor of receiving the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year at last year’s Blues Music Awards.
But, that is the past. This eponymous release is all about Danielle, providing a great sound bite of what she can do on her own, and it is a very nice piece of work. She was joined in the studio by legendary New Orleans producer and guitarist Anders Osborne, as well as his fellow Louisianan Stanton Moore on drums and Trampled Under Foot keyboardist Mike “Shinetop” Sedovic. With a running time of 22 minutes and only a half dozen tracks, there is not a lot of music here, but it is all top-shelf stuff.
This disc kicks off with “You Only Need Me When You’re Down,” and the first thing you will think is, “Wait! Isn’t that the guitar riff from The Champs’ song, ‘Tequila’?” Maybe it is, but has a super funky drum part to turn it into a blues rocker and there are a lot more words to be found in the lyrics. Danielle’s voice has a touch of distortion added and is doubled at times, giving it a very powerful sound. And then it is all over in less than three minutes, which is much too soon!
“Starvin’ For Love” is up next, and listener get a little better idea of what Schnebelen’s voice really sounds like, and it is truly awesome. This fast-faced soul tune (which is not a cover of the Stylistics’ 1971 tune) strips away the vocal effects, so the emphasis shifts to her phrasing, enunciation, and dramatic use of empty space. Sedovic lays down righteous keys throughout, but he is set really far back in the mix, so he is kind of hard to pick out of the high-hat and snare at times.
“Didn’t Do You No Good” is a huge sounding track that rocks with doubled guitar and bass parts and heavily processed organ. This is exactly the sort of song that Danielle’s voice is made for as it uses all of her very impressive range. This is followed up by “Wandering Heart,” which is a complete change in direction with its sparse Crescent City arrangement, slow tempo and Shinetop’s barroom piano. Danielle shows here that she can play the chanteuse, with a voice that is appropriate for blues, soul, jazz, or rock.
The final two cuts on this EP are live tracks that were performed on The Bridge radio station in Kansas City, which can be found at 90.9 FM if you are ever in the City of Fountains. One is an acoustic reprise of “You Only Need Me When You’re Down,” and the other is a beautiful cover of a 1963 Bob Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” To hear Danielle’s voice in this setting with no processing and only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment is jaw dropping. She is one of the best blues singers out there today, but these songs take it a step further and highlight her unique sound and her perfect phrasing. You are not going to mistake her for somebody else!
Danielle is working on her debut full-length album, Wolf Den, which should be out late this summer, and if this EP is any indication it will be a must-buy. In the meantime, you can pick up a copy of the EP for yourself or head over to her web page to check out her tour dates, as she will be touring the US and Canada steadily until then.