The first time I heard Dave Nevling play, the tone he produced really impressed me. More than that, though, it was his intonation on the instrument which floored me. I've reviewed his work hear before, and I'm pretty sure that I said something like "he worries the hell out of a note" on the harmonica. I can't come up with a better description of what Nevling does with each hole that he hits than that. He's back doing just that on his latest release, Sweet Bijou. I'm also quite sure that I mentioned back then that if anyone deserves wider recognition beyond his Texas stomping grounds that it is he. This release further solidifies that opinion.
If you pick it up, just skip down to the final track, Sancho, and see that I ain't fibbing. He romps through a Latin tinged instrumental and gets everything he wants out of each hole that crosses his lips and tongue. He immaculately intones deep bends, double stops, flutter tongues, octaves and runs up and down the diatonic. I don't know if he'd call himself a perfectionist or not, but if so, then he's achieved that goal. Then go back a few tracks to Drink You Away for a taste of what he pulls out acoustically. To me, what separates the great players from the also rans is an acoustic tone that proves they don't have to rely on amplification to achieve a fabulous tone. Any weakness in intonation will be revealed with just harp to mouth. This track proves that Nevling has no weaknesses when it comes to pulling notes out of our humble diatonic.
Of course, I'm darned sure not saying that the other tracks aren't just as worthy; they are in spades. Nevling is certainly the proverbial triple threat. He writes great songs (these are all originals), plays the hell out his harp and sings his butt off. I'm quite sure that apprenticing with Gulf Coast legend, Bert Wills, was quite instrumental in helping him get his vocal chops together sufficiently enough to strike out with his own band. He vocals are fine through out, but if you're still skipping around, cue up Night Into Day. It's a marvelous ballad with a vintage vibe that he just slays vocally. I was going to compare it to a classic that it reminded me of, but as I sat down to write, that memory faded away. Actually, I hate doing those comparisons anyway, so forget about it.
A Dave Nevling release is aways about flowing through a variety of moods and modes. Upside is a nasty little number, lyrically as well as tonewise, on which he produces an accordion sound from his harp; I suspect with help from the Lone Wolf Octave pedal that he sticks into this Meteor Mini Meat amplifier. Guitaris Tom Bryan dishes out a fine solo on the tune and plays pretty darned tastefully throughout.
On the title cut, Nevling nails down and absolutely rules the use of hitting octave runs on the swampy song and stays with that Louisiana vibe with a rocking rhythm on Vieux Carre (which I assume is about partying in New Orleans' French Quarter). Lenora reeks of an Otis Rush style (see, I did use a comparison after all) minor keyed blues on which he whips out his skill on the chromatic. He doesn't chime in with the big harp until the five minute mark of the seven minute tune, but he doesn't hold back once he does. Bryan helps get that slow mo groove going with some nice string bending, similar in style to...naw.
He rounds out Josiah, about an innocent man executed, by playing organ to help set the tone. Drummer, Joe Campise and bassman, Jeff Parmenter are instrumental in providing stomping rhythms to lend a bit of seriousness to the song. Nevling pulls some of his deepest, dark tones on this one.
Connie's Cafe and I Need Love are both jumping, rollicking numbers. The former jumps and jives with some rockabilly picking, standup bass playing off the drums, and more expertly delivered octaves, flutter tongued licks (which he's mastered) and note pulls from Nevling. The latter is just some good time rock and roll on which he and Bryan bounce notes off each other. Heck of a tight band that he's leading down the road.
If he's playing third position harp on the opening cut, She's All That, and I think he is, then I'd have to say that it's some of the best harmonica that I've heard using such. If it's not in third, then the playing is deep toned and deep fried and well played anyway.
That's about all I have to say, other than...just get it. I know CD Baby has it available. His previous releases can be found there, also. As a disclaimer, I guess I need to mention that, yes, Dave Nevling is a friend of mine, and that, yes, he offered me a copy. I sent him a copy of River Bottom Blues as a swap. I got the better deal. I know that he'll read my book only once, but I'll listen to Sweet Bijou numerous times.
As of May 30, 2008, I retired as a high school teacher with 29 years of sharing my knowledge of journalism, English, and world geography with Texas teenagers and eventually some of their kids (including three of my own).
This blog will provide a piece of the answer to the question I've been asked for the millionth time, "Well, what are you going to do now?"
#1 Son, John Bush, designed the title artwork several years ago and it is remarkably appropriate for this blog. Try this as a contact e-mail: rkbush51 at att dot net.