“Ready now? Just keep it simple.” So says Jeb Loy Nichols to his band on the very brief opening Intro to June Is Short, July Is Long, an album which is a sun dappled slice of blue eyed soul and a balm to the ears. Nichols, a southern American expat who has made his home in the rolling hills of Wales, certainly believes in this mantra. There are no bells and whistles on the 11 songs gathered here as they were originally recorded as demos by him and his local band of All-Stars, all local Welsh chaps. Listening back to the songs, Nichols realised they were perfect just as they were and so, with some horn section overdubs added, here they are for our delectation.
While Nichols has had a longstanding association with UK reggae and dub his first love was soul music from the southern American states and many of the songs here reflect this. However he works from a broad palette and as such the album throws up comparisons to artists such as The Rascals, Ry Cooder, The Meters and Ben Sidran. Ultimately, the groove is the essence as the band, keeping it simple, vary from laid back funk, jazzy licks and blissful country vibes as Nichols’ engagingly wearied voice slips comfortably into the songs.
Mellow is the watchword as the album slips along. You Got It Wrong opens with a slight rumble before settling into a classy, almost lounge like, horn fuelled slice of soul adorned with a female chorus. Think I’m Going To Fall In Love Today is funkier in a honeysuckle sort of way sounding like a deep soul cut from the early sixties while Matter Of Fact is stripped down somewhat reminding one of Curtis Mayfield’s work with The Impressions. There are some more energetic moments here as on Last Train Home which rides on a zippy rhythm guitar riff while Black Rooster has the sort of loose limbed blend of funk and country exemplified by Little Feat. Best of all is the excellent How Can A Man (Live Without his Mother). Set to a lonesome harmonica wailing over a shimmering wave of guitar and percussion it’s a song which could easily have sat on a Ry Cooder album. Simply superb.