november 2009

Darrll Nulisch Just For YouJUST FOR YOU
Darrell Nulisch
Severn Records

If you’re wondering if classically styled blues ‘n’ soul is alive and well—blues ‘n’ soul deep and bruised, horn powered with robust organ, moaning harp and crying guitar and a singer who gives it up with each and every note—look no further than this inspired work by Darrell Nulisch. This quintessential soul stylist may have been born in Texas, but somewhere along the way he soaked up the spirit of Memphis and Muscle Shoals, of Al Green and Percy Sledge and Johnny Taylor and the Staples family, put together a tight, versatile band and a powerhouse horn section numbering about eight instruments blowing righteously cool or feverishly hot behind him, teamed up with his buddy (and bassist) Steve Gomes to write surging, aching heartbreakers such as “All the Love We Had,” found some Stax-style barnburners such as the sizzling “You Don’t Know Me” from other writers, and voila! Just For You, a small masterpiece or minor miracle, depending on your point of view, of true-down-deep-in-the-bone blues ‘n’ soul. There will be some cynical dead-enders out there who hear Nulisch and try to write him off as derivative and outdated. Woe be unto them, for they are ignorant. Nulisch sings it like he’s lived it—check that little tear in his voice in the preacherly philosophy he croons soothingly over a pumping, steady groove in “Work For Love”—you can’t fake that and you can’t learn it, except the hard way. And damn if he doesn’t channel the sensuous, heartbreaking cries of both Al Green and Bobby Blue Bland amidst the medium-cool, horn-driven simmer of James Moore’s “Just For You,” and sell it with a wrenching, probing discourse on one man’s valiant effort to prove his love to a clearly skeptical woman—listen to Nulisch’s own shimmering, tear-stained harp solo midway through and say ye are not moved. And check out the nifty keyboard riff from Sly’s “I Want to Take You Higher” that kicks off J.J. Malone’s burbling beauty, “It’s a Shame,” in which Nulisch’s voice takes on some of sly, easygoing phrasing and relaxed timbre of Pop Staples in moaning through a melody reminiscent of “Respect Yourself” as the horns blow emphatic, almost mocking blasts back at him and the frisky percussion lends the workout a slight Latin tinge. Nulisch’s own songs are something to write home about too: “All the Love We Had”’s deliberate, grinding tempo and melancholy horns establish the proper blue-tinted atmosphere for a regret-filled review of something good that got away from him and is still being mourned (nice wah-wah guitar punctuations along the way, too); by contrast, the man knows how to celebrate lessons learned the hard way, as he does in the infectious, jittery gem of straight-ahead advice to the lovelorn, “Let a Woman Be a Woman,” a feel-good, pulsing number fueled by Benjie Porecki’s frolicking organ monologue. You know, there’s a lot of practical common sense in Nulisch’s lyrics, and a whole lot of memorable music to support his positions on matters of the heart. One hesitates to say that whatever he had to go through to arrive at Just For You was worth it, but good for us that he did. We should all learn from his experience and get on the same good foot with our significant others. Hear me talkin’ to ya?  —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024