Nick Waterhouse - Nick Waterhouse (Innovative Leisure)

Nick Waterhouse – Nick Waterhouse (Innovative Leisure)

It somehow always feels like a statement of intent when an artist releases an eponymous album some way into their career; certainly it’s not unusual for a debut to be self-titled, but only a handful of artists (including The Charlatans, The Velvet Underground and Genesis) have pulled this trick in the past.

So Nick Waterhouse is actually the R&B (as in rhythm and blues) artist’s fourth release, and follows up his 2016 album Never Twice. Waterhouse is seemingly well-connected and as well as enlisting Michael Kiwanuka producer Paul Butler, he manages to get Kamasi Washington‘s dad Ricky Washington in on flute and saxophonist Paula Henderson whose CV includes playing with Smokey Robinson. The result is an album that is never shy of showing its influences and one that would be almost impossible to place in a particular year if you were unaware that the artist is actually only 33 and it didn’t tell you at the bottom of this review that the record comes out on Friday.

At its best, Nick Waterhouse sounds like a long lost Northern Soul album – the instrumentation and production having that classic sound – in fact, the third track, the superb ‘I Feel An Urge Coming On’ is just that – a cover of a 1968 song by Waterhouse’s friend and mentor Jo Armstead. It’s enough to take one right back to Wigan, even if one has only been there for the occasional away match rather than a Northern Soul weekender.

‘By Heart’ as a title sounds like a lost song from The Go-Betweens, but is actually the fairly restrained opening track from the record, a subtle grower that has brilliant production, minimalist where it needs to be – a very live sounding drum kit with a little piano and distant guitar that becomes punctuated by some glorious backing vocals that sound like they might be floating in from next door. And there’s a bit of Smokey’s mate’s sax coming in at the end.

‘Song For Winners’ is next up and has more of a feel of The Animals, a lean, tough R&B track that was the opening single from the record, the second single being the altogether more playful ‘Wreck The Rod’, which could maybe even be imagined as an out-take from Ezra Furman‘s brilliant Perpetual Motion People.

Although the sound of Nick Waterhouse is quite deliberately retro, it’s done with style and grace – ‘Thought and Act’ is a tender ballad with some of that wonderful Kamasi-Dad flute. It’s one of those albums that sounds like the players were in the room together, it’s a really natural aesthetic.

The instrumental El Viv’ and jaunty ‘Wherever She Goes’ close the album out in a very upbeat way – in fact ‘Wherever She Goes’ sounds more like an album-opener than ‘By Heart’ does in many ways, but it’s a very ‘up’ record on the whole, so Waterhouse leaves his listeners on a positive.

Nick Waterhouse is not going to be to everyone’s taste in 2019 with its classic soul and R&B stylings, but for those who care more about the songs than the innovation it could really strike a few chords.

Nick Waterhouse is released by Innovative Leisure on 8th March 2019.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.