Anyone who has ever listened to a Tiger Army album should not be surprised that when Nick 13 decided to release a solo album, it turned out to be a country one. The music of Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash and many other country/western legends has always been an obvious influence on the music that Tiger Army has released and each disc contains one song that could only be described as ‘country’ (“Outlaw Heart,” “The Long Road,” etc).
So, as a longtime fan of the band and as a man who usually thinks that the ‘country’ song is the best one on the album, I figured I was in for a treat with this new record. For the most part, I was correct in assuming that I would like this record; I DO like it, but it does have some problems. The first problem is the albums length. At ten songs (really only eight since two are re-recordings of Tiger Army songs, more on those later) and under forty minutes, it’s a bit on the short side. Tiger Army albums are regularly on the short side, but since it has been so long since the last proper album (2007’s “Music From Regions Beyond”) I was hoping for a longer run time for this solo effort.
Complaining about the album’s length may seem like petty bitching to many of you, and normally I’d agree, but my second issue with the disc, (the re-recordings) ties directly in with the run time and just compounds the problem. For this solo endeavor, Nick 13 decided to ‘cover’ two Tiger Army songs and I have to say that I’m not thrilled with the way either of them turned out. The first is the song “Cupid’s Victim.” I love the original version of this song but the countrified version just doesn’t work for me at all. This is not a song that needed to be slowed down, and in doing so, Nick pulled the balls (for lack of a better word) right off of it. The second ‘cover’ is the song “In The Orchard.” This was a ‘country’ styled song when it made its first appearance (both of the covers on “Nick 13″ appeared on the Tiger Army album ‘II: The Power Of Moonlight” in 2001), so why redo it on the ‘country’ album? The original was heavy on the slide guitar (which was incredible) and it’s lacking in the new version. To me, these songs are a bit of a waste of space. Both are inferior to their original versions and I plan to delete both of them from my iPod after I finish writing this review, making this an eight song album that checks in at about a half-hour long.
Now that I’ve gotten the negative aspects of this disc out of the way, I’d like to talk about the positives. As you’ll recall from a few paragraphs ago, I said that I like this album. Allow me to tell you why. The first thing is Nick’s vocals. I personally think Nick 13 has one of the best voices in music, let alone in the Psycho/Horror-billy genres. This guy can actually sing and I love to hear him sing. The eight original songs that are on this album range from really good to awesome, and those songs make this album worth the purchase price.
My favorite is probably the song “Carry My Body Down.” This one could have easily fit on a Tiger Army album (as that one country song towards the end of the disc). It’s a song about wondering how and when you’ll die, and the music gives me a feeling like I’m on a horse that is slowly walking towards death. It plays like a song that you’d hear in an old black and white western in the scene right before the hero marches off to face some unsurvivable shoot out.
Another great one is the track “All Alone.” This one features nice use of the standup bass (a Tiger Army standard) and is about…being alone. The fiddle adds a nice touch to this song. This song reminds me of driving across some vast desert and seeing no signs of life; the feeling you’d get thirty minutes after passing the billboard that read ‘Last gas for 200 miles’.
“101” is also a really good track, a little more on the rockin’ side of the western sound. I can picture a bunch of people in cowboy hats line dancin’ to this number. It has a simple chorus (“on the 101”) but Nick’s voice gives it more depth than you’d expect from three little words.
If you are a fan of Tiger Army’s slower moments, you should enjoy this disc but I wouldn’t say that it’s for every fan. Nick 13 made an album that showcased some of the music that influenced him (Mike Ness did the same in the late 90’s with his two ‘country’ albums) and it’s not going to appeal to every Tiger Army fan. Personally, I really enjoyed the new music, I wish it was longer but… it is what it is, and what it is , is a pretty damn good album. One that I look forward to listening to on those hot summer evenings that are quickly heading our way.