Curran's career has been on a meteoric rise since the February 2003
release of his Blind Pig debut, Doctor
Velvet, winner of the 2004 W.C. Handy Award for "Best New Artist
Debut." And with good reason. He's an original new talent who has
captured a golden musical moment in time and made it his own.
Though he's only in his 20s, Curran artfully creates raw, powerful
music that recreates the exuberance and rebelliousness of the dawn of
the rock 'n' roll age. A twenty-first century hybrid of Little Richard
and T-Bone Walker, the young guitarist/vocalist displays a veteran's
mastery of the nuances of roots rock and blues idioms. It's surprising
that someone so young could breathe new life into musical forms that are
more than twice his age, yet do it in such a way that makes the familiar
sound startlingly new. He not only skillfully reinterprets R&B and jump
blues classics in the authentic style of the original recordings, he
also crafts original tunes that hold their own with the masters.
One of the first things you notice upon listening to Nick Curran's
recordings is how much they actually sound like classic R&B records from
the late 40's and early 50's. If they weren't on one of those little
silver discs, you'd swear you were listening to rare 45s or 78s. Using a
live, one-take technique and vintage recording equipment, Curran
uncannily manages to recreate not only the sound but also the spirit of
those earlier, wonderful times.
But Curran is far more than a mere revivalist, a staid
neo-traditionalist, or a wannabe pretender. He's able to infuse each
track with a freshness, urgency, and vitality that are lacking in many
modern blues and rock releases.
Curran grew up in the Portland, Maine area, where his dad was a
professional musician. His father would give him
and Duke Robillard records and say, "If you want to be a good guitar
player, learn all these solos, every note!" At 15 Nick was playing
guitar with his father's blues band, Mike Curran and the Tremors. By the
time he was 18 Curran was playing guitar in a local rockabilly band,
when he was introduced to rockabilly legend Ronnie Dawson. He joined
Dawson's band and began his first national tour, playing guitar with
Dawson for the next six months. His reputation as a hotshot guitarist
was beginning to spread. When he got off the road from Dawson's tour, he
got a call to go back out on the road with Texas rockabilly queen Kim
Lenz. His guitar work on that tour impressed Lenz so much she asked Nick
to move from New England to Dallas to join her backup band, the Jaguars.
He stayed in that band for two years, getting some recording experience
along the way on one of Lenz' albums (The One And Only).
When he wasn't on the road with Lenz, Curran played the Dallas-Fort
Worth area extensively with local blues notable Hashbrown, who
introduced the young guitarist to many influential people on the blues
scene and included him in the recording of the Browntones' CD Have Some
Curran immersed himself in the vibrant blues traditions in Dallas as
well as the roots music scene in Austin. He even did a touring stint
with retro-country sensation Wayne Hancock. Nick had been a long time
admirer of Duke Robillard and Roomful of Blues and always thought he
wanted to have a similar band. By 1999 he was anxious to branch out from
the rockabilly scene and start doing more blues stuff, as well as his
own material. He recorded his debut album, Fixin'
Your Head, for the Texas Jamboree label. Blues
Revue named it the "Best
of the Box" for that issue, saying, "Curran sounds old in the right way,
doing blazing hepcat swing." The following year he formed the Nitelifes
because he wanted to tour with his own band in support of the record.
In 2001 he released his second album for Texas Jamboree, entitled Nitelife
Boogie. Living Blues noted
that Curran's "secure, uncompromising musical vision and in-the-red
recording concepts leave most modern blues bands behind." A few months
after the release of this album, Curran decided to move to Austin, where
he knew there was a large pool of talented players.
One of the local musicians who took notice of Nick's emergence on the
Austin scene was Jimmie Vaughan. Impressed by what he heard on Curran's
CDs, he invited Nick to sit in with him at a show at Antone's and later,
in a Blues Revue
interview, cited Curran as one of his favorite up-and-comers, calling
him "just a total ass-kicker." When it came time for Nick to record Doctor
Velvet, his national debut on Blind Pig Records, Vaughan was happy
to join Curran in the studio to guest on a couple of tracks.
Doctor Velvet generated
immediate critical acclaim. Blueswax called
it "one of the finest albums of the year" while Living
Blues dubbed it
"outstanding" andBlues Revue predicted,
"Curran is poised for success in a way that has nothing to do with age."
The essential guide to retro culture, Atomic magazine,
added, "As good as Nick Curran's previous album was, it's hard to
believe he could make one better. Did he ever...this is the album of the
year." Even the magazine of Southern culture, Gritz,
weighed in with, "I can't recommend this one highly enough." Mainstream
publications such as Guitar
One and Vintage
Guitar also took note of
the arrival of a new recording star, with the latter offering this
review: "You know how some records just ooze fun? That'd be this one.
Nick and his group mix jump blues, boogie, and greasy rock and roll into
a perfect stew."
Nick and the album also attracted international attention, with rave
reviews in U.K. magazines such as Blues
& Rhythm and Mojo ("Festival
organizers, get this band over here!"), appearances on the cover of
magazines in Germany, and winning a Trophees France Award for "Best New
International Blues Artist."
Meanwhile, Nick and the Nitelifes have been generating a solid buzz
with their live shows. With head-turning performances at festivals and
clubs across the country, the young guitarist and singer has established
himself as one of the freshest, most exciting new talents on the scene. Blues
Revue summed it up as
follows: "Nick Curran is making his mark with an exciting personal style
that manages to retain a vintage-tone purity. The word of mouth Curran
generates is all good. Internet discussion boards are shot through with
postings and excited conversations by stunned people who just saw Nick
and his band for the first time. Nick Curran is a don't miss performer."
On his new Blind Pig release, Player!,
Curran displays the full range of his musical arsenal - from
rambunctious, raucous rockers to brash, outrageous jump blues and R&B to
tender, confident ballads. His strong vocals display a surprising range
- from soulful crooning to raspy swagger, at times uncannily close to
heroes of his such as Amos Milburn or Roy Brown - while his spot-on
guitar playing stings like a rattlesnake. Add Nick's uncanny knack for
recreating the feel and vibe of classic R&B and rock and the swaggering
backing of the fabulous Nitelifes and you've got a nonstop, hard-rocking
rhythm and blues party album that only Nick and the Nitelifes could