Dating back to his first release—1990's No Easy Way (with the Fellow Travellers, on Okra/Rough Trade)—Jeb Loy Nichols has always sought to reconcile the classic riffs of Memphis-style '7

Dating back to his first release—1990's No Easy Way (with the Fellow Travellers, on Okra/Rough Trade)—Jeb Loy Nichols has always sought to reconcile the classic riffs of Memphis-style '70s soul with his love of Jamaican music. (Nichols' artwork adorns many reggae reissues on the Pressure Sounds label.) These passions unite in an unaffected, appealing manner on Just What Time It Is. One would have to reach back to Willie Mitchell's productions for the Hi label or to J.J. Cale's best solo albums to find an adequate comparison for the beguiling, deceptively laid-back atmosphere that Nichols conjures. The album opener, "Heaven Right Here," is an irresistible invitation to hang out in Nichols' backyard, and it sets the prevailing tone. Its verses are sung with a Caribbean lilt, as electric piano and programmed beats spar with Nichols' acoustic strumming, leading up to a perfect sing-along chorus. Though an instrument of limited range, Nichols' voice is possessed of whole-wheat charm and sufficient nuance to keep poignant numbers, such as "She Reminded Me," from lapsing into cliché. Every summer needs albums as good as this.—RBH

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print