Feeling Good Is Good Enough
It’s not often that a younger bluesman comes along, steeped in the country Delta blues. Enter Nick Wade, who has received a glowing endorsement from Guy Davis and Corey Harris, and surely many others who don’t grace the liner notes. Guy Davis says, “…a young cat with an old sound…His love of the old dust-covered black blues is genuine and authentic.” Wade certainly has mastered his guitar playing and vocals stylings, but he also notably wrote all twelve tunes here, rendered in the style of the originators of the form, especially his main influence Robert Johnson, earing this praise from Harris, “…His sincere dedication to the history, heritage, spirit, and the truth of the blues both uniquely impressive and what is needed in the world today.”
Wade grew up in a musical family and began taking lessons at the age of five from his grandfather Johnny Wade, a professional jazz musician who played in the bebop era with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Slack and many others. But Wade didn’t follow in his footsteps as a jazz musician, instead teaching himself guitar at age 22 and embarking on Chicago electric blues, soon detouring to acoustic country blues after being totally captivated by the music of Robert Johnson
You certainly hear that distinct influence. “Ease on Down the Road” evokes “Love in Vain.” “Sky Line Drive” will conjure Johnson’s “Steady Rollin’ Man” and others. There are other obvious references to other Delta greats as well – “Lonesome Copperhead Snake” (with co-producer Li’l Ronnie Owens on harmonica) has its roots in Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan” and the various adaptations that followed. Being deeply religious, it’s not surprising to hear Wade go the route of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Beulah Land” in his own “Sing with the Angels” but even the secular “Broke and Busted” echoes Hurt’s style. As you near the end of the disc, some of Wade’s most poignant vocals are in “Engineer Blues” and his deeply spiritual “Crucifixion.”
Wade’s performance at the prestigious Bentonia Blues Festival brought him to the attention of record labels and promoters, likely leading to this recording, ‘live to tape’ in the studio and outdoors in Green Springs, VA in Louisa County. Wade plays with superb clarity, rhythmic sense, and little unnecessary flair whether using a 1936 Gibson made Kalamazoo, likely heard on the instrumentals “Ragamuffin,” “Raggin’ My Blues Away” -and others; or his 2022 Goodman Grand Concert.
Welcome Nick Wade to the thin ranks of authentic acoustic blues artists. It’s refreshing to see a young man receive the calling as we need more of his ilk to keep this vital art form thriving.
- Jim Hynes