The NEM Project – self titled
Tangent Boy Productions
8 song, 30 min.
The NEM Project is an impressive album. Nick Evans Mowery (the “NEM” of the project) has been churning out straight Rock and Rock laced Blues and Soul since 2004 either under his own name or this “Project” moniker. This new album is impressive because of the depth and fluidity of the performances by Mowery, who apparently plays everything but the drums (drumming credits not listed). Playing all the instruments on a record is usually reserved for the savant greatness of Stevie Wonder or dearly departed Prince. It is not always done well by mere mortals often sounding too stiff and with little variation. Mowery, however, nails it, all 8 tracks sound fresh and diverse.
This record is soulful Blues-Rock. Openers “Back Up Against the Wall” and “Delta Fills In the Rain” set a rustic, snappy tone. “Against the Wall” is that kind of charging smirking chordy Roots Rock that Lowell George created the blueprint for in Little Feat. “Delta” has a smooth Memphis flop which perfectly complements the lyrics about playing on Beale Street. Coupled with the acoustic barrelhouse roll of “Bar Room Days,” Mowery creates an endearing picture of what his dues-paying must have looked like. The aesthetic is made whole with the Gospel-Soul turned Yacht Rock ballad “Sista Sue,” think Sam and Dave fronting Steely Dan with Earth Wind and Fire’s rhythm section.
The songwriting of this album is obviously heartfelt and close to Mowery’s experience. Not only does NEM deal with being a struggling musician he address loss, love, family and friendship. In spite of all the meaningful subject matter, some of the lyrics are overly direct. In one of the most moving concepts, Mowery sings a tale of a father imparting lessons to a son (it’s unclear which he is), “That’s What Grown Men Do.” The straightforward lyricism of this song is more in line with modern Country music and lacks rhyme and poetry. The image of “Delta Fills in the Rain,” a great concept, is laid explicitly bare by more straight forward reporting. This type of lyricism is indicative of certain types of music but lacks the nuance, invention and rhythmic depth of the Blues. As your humble Blues Blast reviewer often notes, this is a minor quip when the performances are consistently so engaging and enjoyable.
Mowery is one hell of a singer. With a husky voice that has weight and warmth, NEM belts out every line with conviction and clarion confidence. Equally accomplished on guitar, singing and shredding is NEM’s normal performance mode. He is that type of musician though, who is able to layer the keyboards, bass and background vocals and create a singular product. Recorded at his own studio, this is a passion project. Sounding relaxed and inspired, Nick Evans Mowery delivers a concise and powerful artistic statement that is well worth multiple listens.