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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spike Nicer And The Lewis Sisters - 4th Farewell

Spike Nicer And The Lewis Sisters – 4th Farewell
2012, Spike Nicer Records
When last we heard from Spike Nicer, he was promoting his album, Mystery Time.  A classic troubadour, Nicer has benefited from a steady stream of jobs, meeting more and varied colorful personalities than the average Joe.  He is adept at translating his varied experiences into song, bringing characters to life who, if not real in and of themselves, are certainly inspired by those who are.  Nicer recently teamed up with Goodlettsville, Tennessee’s The Lewis Sisters to release a live collection in honor of a fallen friend.  4th Farewell captures Nicer at his most enigmatic; the master showman who truly takes the stage.  It is also a pleasant surprise, offering up the discovery of the angelic voices of the Lewis sisters.

The Lewis Sisters kick things off with a gorgeous, 3-part acappella harmony version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”  This is a goose bump inducing performance, one that you won’t want to miss.  Nicer kicks things into gear with “E.I.L.Y”, a wonderfully catchy and funk-infused rocker that simply won’t leave you alone.  Nicer’s voice is as pleasant as ever, with an artfully understated style that conspires to draw the listener in.  “Back-Up Man” is outstanding, bringing all of the dysfunction and imperfection that Spicer displayed on Mystery Time, but with a bit more panache this time around.  “Rain” takes on a late-1960’s or early 1970’s rock sound, muscled up and ready to flush out the dust.  Nicer’s band is as tight as a wire hear, and hitting on all eight cylinders.

Nicer shows the depth of his songwriting ability on “99 Parts Dust”, an answer to Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” that’s just as deep without slipping into the classic cliché of growing old before we know it has happened.    This song is among Nicer’s highest achievements as a songwriter, and is played beautifully here.  “Kate Shaw” is an old school country tune that’s highly entertaining and exceedingly well performed.  There are elements of Johnny Cash here that are impossible to ignore.  “Everything Auction” gets spiced up with the voices of The Lewis Sisters, who make a great bit of songwriting sound even better.  “Turn The Lights Off Baby” is a wonderful country duet about love aging gracefully.  There’s a sweetness here that can’t be denied.

“Madeline In The Morning” is a moving portrait of the life of one woman who is primarily driven, and saved by music.  Most everyone will have heard a story like the one, but Nicer brings the protagonist to life in song in a way few singer/songwriters ever achieve.  “Stop This Train” takes on an Americana tinge, but remains firmly in the country/rock mode.  “Some Friends Of Mine” examines the lives of others whose relationships are falling apart.  This is more of a pictorial in song than anything else; one that might just hit home with listeners.  “Catie Bange” is dramatic and entertaining, mixing elements of house and hip-hop into a living and breathing arrangement that’s rock and roll, soul, country, jazz and R&B.  Nicer’s cover of John Carter Cash’s “Loch Ness Monster” is utterly inspired, perhaps even channeled at times.

“Disarray” comes across in much more modern tones, with Nicer sounding like he’s working an outtake from Blue Rodeo.    This time around it’s love and dysfunction, all wrapped in melancholy for the world to consider.  In this moment, Nicer finds beauty, even as it flits and fleets away as soon as it is formed.   “Apple Pie & Coffee” and “(Hey Baby I’m The) Baker Man” are solid, delivering a slow build that occasionally flattens out.  Nicer rebounds nicely on “Pumpkin Pie”, a quietly dynamic closer that will get stuck in your grille and stay there. 

Spike Nicer is as good as you might remember (if you’re already familiar with him.)  That’s not to say that there won’t be the occasional miss, depending on the listener, but 4th Farewell is full of great songwriting, amazing voices, and the sort of inspirational play that can’t be planned for.  The Lewis Sisters themselves are a revelation, and very much worth spending some time getting to know.  In the mean time, 4th Farewell is the sort of effort you can’t afford to not give some attention to. 

Rating:  4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Spike Nicer And The Lewis Sisters at or  You can purchase singles from 4th Farewell on, but as yet no formal album release appears to have occurred.  Keep checking Nicer's website for additional details.

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