BLUES FEST SPECIAL: Nikki Hill, Nick Moss Band, The Jimmys
NIKKI HILL (11 pm): Those who have seen Carolina girl Nikki Hill sing her ass off agree—this isn’t just another newcomer on the scene; this is a ‘whiplash’ moment. Where did this fireball come from? Why haven’t I heard of her before?
Hill and her band have been touring extensively following the independent 2015 release ‘Heavy Hearts Hard Fists" and debut album ‘Here’s Nikki Hill’, released in 2013. With a no-filter energy, and explosive live show, they deliver a sound that will make you believe in rock ‘n’ roll again! Nikki’s unique voice—with raw rock and soul dynamics mixed with the strength, passion, and honesty of blues shouters of the past—steers the driving guitar and a tight rhythm section to create a breath of fresh air with their fast forward approach to American roots music.
By the time of 2003’s Count Your Blessings, Moss’s work was attracting the attention in a big way. That recording featured not only the talents of such Chicago-based artists as Willie Smith, Barrelhouse Chuck, and Bob Stroger, but the contributions of national figures like Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, Lynwood Slim, and Curtis Salgado. Both Blessings and its successor, Sadie Mae (2005), received BMA consideration and strong reviews. Two exciting live albums (Live at Chan’s and Live at Chan’s: Combo Platter No. 2, the latter featuring Lurrie Bell) followed, bracketing 2007’s remarkable Play It ‘Til Tomorrow, recorded with guests Barrelhouse Chuck and Eddie Taylor Jr. An ambitious double album (one arranged in typical electric style, the other an acoustic session), Play It produced yet another BMA nomination for Album, along with nods for Guitarist and Band, and placed in Blues Revue magazine’s 2010 critics’ poll of the “Decade’s Best Blues: 25 Great Albums That Defined The Past 10 Years.”
Mythical stories often involve as a central element a quest, and Moss’s true-life experience follows suit. Along the way, he played on records by Smith, Big Bill Morganfield, and Monster Mike Welch; produced and/or released albums for other Blue Bella artists including Cash Box Kings, Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Bill Lupkin, Gerry Hundt, and Matthew Stubbs; and produced the all-star Midnight Blues project on Magic Slim & The Teardrops for Blind Pig Records in 2008 — all in addition to the growth in his vision achieved over the arc of seven genuinely authentic blues albums, recognized by a total of 16 BMA nominations. It seemed reasonable for a restless artist, with nothing left to prove to purists, to wonder what other styles he could explore.
If Moss had a new plan in 2001, he began in earnest to carry it out in performances leading up to his 2010 release, Privileged. He may have come early to the blues, but his formative years were scored largely by Led Zeppelin, Free, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, and other blues-influenced rockers, and Moss found that by introducing elements of their music, he could remain true to his roots, even as he expanded his creative options. Making use of a broader sonic palette, trying his hand at timely and topical songwriting, and introducing new rhythms resulted in music of a higher intensity, and an increasingly rewarding relationship with audiences. Victoria Amps’ Mark Baier, writing for the online Blues Guide Chicagobluesguide.com, proclaimed Moss “a modern cross generational musician.” On 2011’s Here I Am, Moss continued to move forward, adding R&B-based textures, and sometimes an Allman Brothers-esque jam band aesthetic, to his trick bag. In 2014, the more progressive Time Ain’t Free “reached deeper into soul, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll,” according to Billboard.com, “with shades of P-Funk, Little Feat, Faces, and world music, all filtered through Moss’s deep blue lens, sparking exciting new directions.”
Nick is a gifted storyteller, a songwriter that takes his craft seriously and a musician with a daunting work ethic. He is a walking encyclopedia of blues and music knowledge, and his deep understanding of the genre shines on the new release From the Root to the Fruit (Blue Bella Records, 2016).
THE JIMMYS (8 pm): The Jimmys are what you get when you combine (A) the seasoned keyboard/Hammond organ talents of Jimmy Voegeli, long time member of Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band, (B) the drummer from The Georgia Satellites, (C) the four-piece horn section from Clyde Stubblefield's Band, and (D) the expertise of southern Wisconsin's finest bass guitar, and (E) the legendary blues guitarist Perry Weber on six-strings and vocals. The Jimmys aren't your typical blues band. With awards and reviews rolling in on their new album "Hot Dish" the Jimmys are primed for the world stage.