Danielle Nicole – Wolf Den |Album Review

daniellenicholecdDanielle Nicole – Wolf Den

Concord 2015


12 tracks; 51 minutes

When the Schnebelen siblings split up Trampled Under Foot it would only be a matter of time before Danielle recorded a solo album.  Having issued a four track EP last year as an interim measure here is a full length album and it’s a great piece of soul and New Orleans-infused blues.  Whenever TUF played the music was always great but when Danielle stepped out to sing this sort of soul you always wanted more – well, here it is, twelve tracks recorded in NO with Anders Osborne producing and co-writing six of the songs here with Danielle.  Danielle wrote four more herself, sings one of Anders’ tunes and there is one cover.  The band is Danielle on bass and vocals, Anders on guitar, Mike ‘Shinetop’ Sedovic on keys and Galactic’s Stanton Moore on drums; Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) guests on guitar on two cuts.

The album opens with the title track “Wolf Den”, the description of a club lost in the backwoods which comes across rather like Tina Turner’s homage to her place of birth in “Nutbush City Limits” with Mike’s stabbing organ, Anders’ oblique guitar licks and Danielle and Stanton locked into the rhythm from start to finish.  Things get really soulful on “How You Gonna Do Me Like That”, Danielle’s fine voice ideally suiting the gentle funk of the tune, reminding one of another contemporary female singer who adapts well to soul tunes – Susan Tedeschi.  Next up is “Take It All”, a sumptuous ballad of the kind that the late Etta James sang so well in her prime and Danielle matches that level, her voice demonstrating the total commitment that the lyrics suggest: “Take my heart, don’t leave it behind, I can’t help have your loving on my mind, I said take it, please, take it all”.  With Mike’s piano a constant throughout and a fine, gentle solo from Anders, this is a standout performance.

The uptempo “You Only Need Me When You’re Down” opens with a drum and guitar workout and provides a muscular contrast to the previous track, but whether it’s a smoldering ballad or a rocker, Danielle’s voice stands out.  “Just Give Me Tonight” returns to the ballads with a beautifully understated piano and organ intro to a rousing vocal performance from Danielle before the jazzy blues intro to “Easin’ Into The Night” takes us on a finger-snapping trip to New Orleans. “Didn’t Do You No Good” brings a range of guitar embellishments from Anders and a thundering chorus with the whole band locked into a crunching riff – certainly the rockiest track so far.

Luther Dickinson makes his appearance on the next two tracks: “Waiting For Your Love” returns to the soul vibe with some nice shimmering guitar additions from Luther and Anders working in unison and Danielle singing perfectly to match the style, just a hint of grit in her soaring voice; the cover of Ann Peebles’ “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” has plenty of wah-wah guitar and another crunching bass line, Stanton’s drums very much to the fore and Mike’s churchy organ leading the tune as Danielle testifies forcefully before Luther’s dramatic slide solo.

Anders’ “It Ain’t You” proves to be a wise choice, another great track with its insistent riff and catchy chorus which again suits Danielle’s voice well. “In My Dreams” evokes New Orleans with its funky bass lines and drumming that sits just behind the beat, Mike laying down a classic NO piano solo. Danielle sounds a little teasing in her vocal delivery as she declares that she “will be on your mind all of the time (and in your dreams)”.  The album closes with “Fade Away”, another tune with a funky bottom line and a solid chorus, Anders using the wah-wah throughout.

Those who wanted to hear Danielle out front on vocals will find lots to enjoy here.  The band plays well in support but this one is all about the voice and Danielle nails it, proving herself to be one of the strongest female singers on the current scene.  Recommended!

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