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Gary and Whitey – Double Class Act

Arresting new releases from Gary Nicholson and Whitey Johnson

Both Out 7 June 2019 – Gary Nicholson’s ‘The Great Divide’ and Whitey Johnson’s ‘More Days Like These’

By Rob Dickens

Gary Nicholson

Gary Nicholson’s list of achievements are super impressive – as songwriter, producer and performer.

His name appears on around 600 recorded songs across multiple genres – country, blues, Americana and pop songs. He has contributed to recordings by the likes of B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant, Delbert McLinton and even Ringo Starr.

A two-time Grammy recipient for production and inductee into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Nicholson has served on the boards of the Blues Foundation and Nashville Songwriters Association International and participates in SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

He’s had songwriting hits with Don Williams, Vince Gill, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, Garth Brooks and these artists have either co-written with him or recorded his songs – John Prine, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Diamond, George Jones, George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, the Mavericks and Emmylou Harris. Long-time friend McClinton has recorded almost forty Nicholson songs. With the late Stephen Bruton, Nicholson co-wrote “Fallin’ and Flyin’” sung by Jeff Bridges in the Oscar-winning film Crazy Heart.

The Great Divide (released by Blue Corn Music on 7 June 2019) is a biting commentary on today’s events, with Nicholson’s husky, skilled vocals and insightful lyrics perfectly reflecting our trouble times.  There are many other artists commenting with similar passion these days, but here there’s a wonderful use of space and simplicity that transforms the message into something even more potent.  I suspect that The Great Divide is a folk postcard of which Woody Guthrie would totally approve.

Nicholson observes and opines on racism through the experienced eyes of someone who has toured with black musicians in the early days. This is painfully clear in “Blues in Black and White”. The current divisions in American society are documented with biting simplicity in “God Help America,” which includes a soulful duet with Texas gospel-blues great Ruthie Foster (see clip below). It’s not all grim, though, as the positivity in the ragtime “Hallelujah Anyhow” would attest.

“Since 2016, I haven’t been able to stop writing songs in reaction to this hurtful political climate….“It’s overwhelming for all of us,” Nicholson says. “We need music to soothe our souls, as it did in the days of ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘What’s Going On’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ Back then, music helped us get through the madness a little easier. With today’s troubles, I wasn’t hearing anybody singing about what’s on everybody’s mind every day, so I decided I had to put these songs out there.’”

As well as Foster, Nicholson has some talented friends who help out on the album – John Cowan, The McCrary Sisters, Shawn Camp, Colin Linden and Kenny Vaughn. The record was produced by Nicholson and sonically assembled with precision at Fearless Recording.

The Great Divide is a towering and-impossible-to-ignore signpost on the political and musical landscape of 2019.

Whitey Johnson

Self-professed “obscure bluesman” Whitey Johnson has been a musical presence for around a decade and presents us with More Days Like This (also on Blue Corn Music AND issued on June 7). This collection allows us a nice counter vibe to the seriousness of The Great Divide, giving us a feel-good and bouncy set of blues ballads, beautifully and lovingly crafted. 

It features versions of two great Buddy Guy songs – “The Blues Is Alive and Well” and “Skin Deep”. “Starting a Rumor” was written with Guy Clark and McClinton and Johnson shares writing credits with Muscle Shoals legends Donnie Fritts and Arthur Alexander on “If It’s Really Gotta Be This Way”.

Along with Whitey, we have collaborators Colin Linden (guitar), Lynn Williams (drums), Mike Joyce (bass), with keyboard duties shared between Dennis Wage and Kevin McKendree. More Days Like This was recorded at Blackbird Studio Nashville in September 2018.

Another triumph!

 Summary

Oh, did I mention that Gary Nicholson and Whitey Johnson are the same person?

“When I started performing as Whitey,” Nicholson says, “part of my intention was just to say I’m not black and I’m never gonna be able to sound like Muddy or Wolf or B.B., but I can pay homage through the songs they’ve influenced me to write.”

Together, these albums represent absolute proof of the Gary Nicholson gilt-edged trademark – one of the more impressive singer/songwriters on the planet.

Here’s a clip for the stunning “God Help America”:

Via Conqueroo

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Arresting new releases from Gary Nicholson and Whitey Johnson

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Author: Rob Dickens

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