Artist(s): Dwight & Nicole
Released: February 2010 (release party info here)
Listen: "Cry, Cry", "Avenue B", "Caribbean Song",
"Round in Love"
When I took this job five months ago I had a lot of catching up to do. I've been quietly enjoying live local music for years but to transition into being a music booster I had to get more inside knowledge.
To do so I've been asking people on the scene (in confidence, of course) who they think is making the best music and who seems poised to take that next step toward the big time. I've asked these questions across genres—from blues and soul people and into rock and pop—and the one name that comes up across the board is Dwight & Nicole.
There are some base reasons factored in, obviously. The simple contrasts between the two in race and gender make for a marketable image, even if they shouldn't. Nicole Nelson's command of stage and audience is absolute (to say nothing of her tremendous voice) and Dwight Ritcher squeezes blues, soul and swamp sounds out of a heavy metal guitar, for Christ's sake. They are memorable on sight, regardless of sound.
But there is a lot more to it than presentation. A lot more. The blues cats, soulsters, songwriters, rockers and pop fiends all admire what D&N do because they do all of that expertly, and then some. There are so many layers to their comprehensive sound, and the sum of them makes the music accessible across the spectrum of tastes.
This ability is boldly evident on their new album !Signs, and the fact that its release party is at Somerville Theatre (Fri., February 5) is telling. Basically, the sound on this record is too big to cram into a little nightclub. Where would you even fit the twelve people on stage playing music from it?
All at once !Signs is a handful of different records. It's a horn record a la Stax. It's a guitar virtuoso record running across styles from New York to Texas and most places in between. It's a duet record and a showcase for Nelson's impressive vocal diversity. It's delicate and deft in how it deals with love. It's breezy and danceable at the same time. It's just all-around big and idiosyncratic, without being oppressively so.
Hopefully the crowd on the 5th will be as big and idiosyncratic as the music. We could use some bona fide stars around here.