Review – “Sometimes Chicken, Sometimes Feathers” – Graham Nicholas

Graham2_NoLinesreviewed by Michael Thomas

Graham Nicholas may have been onto something when he released an EP in 2013 that had “bedtime stories” in its title. Despite this full-length album’s fowl-referencing name, there’s that same sense of warmth and good feelings that the previous EP evoke.

Indeed, the album shares a bit of DNA with Ruby, including the pristine “Penny,” with all its pretty vocalizations, and “Wandering Angel,” whose pedal steel wail leads into a lovely opening line: “Well your daddy was a straight shooter/And I guess that makes you a son of a gun.”

But there’s also a real sense that Nicholas is writing about living, breathing, characters, each pining for the little bit of love that will make them whole again. But to counterbalance the wistful folk tales there’s plenty of joy, and the album’s title track seems to speak directly to the fact that life can suck, but hey, it can be good too.

That sense of real warmth to songs both joyous and sad is owed at least part to producer Aaron Comeau (also a player on the album), who has a magic touch when it comes to folk and country records. And with Raven Shields providing lovely backing vocals, there’s always someone for Nicholas to play off of.

“Angel and the Monkey” and “Heart, Please Forgive Me” both feature narrators whose love has gone forever. While the narrator of the former seems to be aware that there are steps he could take to try to get his lover back, the latter’s narrator seems trapped in his own toxic thoughts.

An interesting twist on the lonely lover comes in “Bluebird,” a decidedly muted song which features just Nicholas and Shields’ vocals and a muted guitar for most of it. In it, a bluebird’s mournful song reminds him of a lost lover, but when the lover returns, the bird disappears and he longs to hear its song again.

The more joyful songs are a nice change, like the delightful opener “Roll Me Up,” which features some psychedelic-sounding organ and electric guitar. It completely changes the mood of what would be an otherwise mournful ballad. And let’s not forget “Sunday Kinda Love,” a folk-rocking vocal back-and-forth about a couple who save their real loving for Sundays. It escalates to another level as Nicholas and Shields trade innuendos, like “If you melt my butter I’ll whip your cream/I’ll flap your jacks, you know what I mean.”

It all comes to a happy ending with, er, “Happy Ending,” starting off simply before building into a rollicking number with a whole lot of fiddle. It’ll leave listeners all warm and fuzzy, just like the album as a whole.

Top Tracks: “Roll Me Up”; “Sunday Kinda Love”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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