On her excellent third album, Danni Nicholls offers evidence that she continues to grow as an artist while she has also taken the step of recording the album with a selection of female musicians and studio technician under the aegis of producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin. Hamlin built her own studio in Nashville to suit female artists and she has previously recorded The Indigo Girls and Lucy Wainwright-Roche there. The Melted Morning is a major achievement with Nicholls singing a number of glorious careworn ballads, all given lift with excellent arrangements ranging from southern soul touches to shimmering string arrangements. A couple of the songs are less orchestrated and more reminiscent of her earlier work and throughout the album her voice is never less than magnificent.
The album opens with the sweeping drama of Wild As The Water which swells from its tentative beginnings, spare piano and guitar, into a perfectly nuanced wide screen melodrama which allows Nicholls opportunity to flex her vocal muscles. Losing It then shifts into a more metropolitan late night neon sheen with glossy guitars gliding throughout it on a song about love and regret before another switch into a southern soul mode on the excellent Hear Your Voice. Here Nicholls is as soulful a singer as you could wish to hear and the band slouch along perfectly as The Secret Sisters add their gospel harmonies. There’s a return to this southern feel later on in Power To Leave while the closing Hopeless Romantic has more of a lonesome sound as Nicholls and her guitar are buttressed by a ghostly pedal steel which perfectly captures the sense of loss contained in the lyrics.
Nicholls shares the songwriting on many of the songs with a celebrated cast of writers. Ben Glover, Robby Hecht and Amelia White, among others, all pop up in the credits. As such, songs such as Frozen, Wish I Were Alone and Texas all stand up on theirown stead. A solo composition, Lemonade, attests to the fact that Nicholls can well carry the can on her own, the song being a fine metaphor for joy rising from sadness and delivered with sweetly melancholic piano and cello alongside her own fingerpicking. But the centrepiece of the album is the breathtaking Unwanted. Here Nicholls and Hamlin pull out the stops creating an ambient atmosphere reminiscent of Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball album with some nods to the tundra sounds of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira. It’s certainly one of the best songs we’ve heard this year.
Danni Nicholls is currently touring and appears in Edinburgh and Glasgow on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. All dates here.