Clint Niosi
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Clint Niosi


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"Eleanor Show 55-The Sum of Parts by Clint Niosi video"

From the album "The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders" - NME

"The year in arts: These 20 albums by North Texas artists kept music fans enthralled in 2008"

The music industry fell even further in 2008, hemorrhaging jobs, profits and talent. But, closer to home, the past 12 months provided some of the sharpest, shiniest tunes in recent memory. Veterans and neophytes alike unveiled a range of textures and moods, moving from gritty realism to Technicolor fantasy and, occasionally, putting a fresh spin on the tried-and-Texan country-rock sound.

Here are 20 of the best albums the Lone Star State had to offer (in alphabetical order by artist).

Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

On her first album in half a decade, Badu's deliriously funky, politically charged New Amerykah reveals an artist shifting into an introspective phase marked by reluctance and acceptance. A galaxy of underground hip-hop stars applied their skills to these woozy, stylish tracks, slicing and dicing samples, creating moods both melancholy and militant while soaking the entire album in a vintage vinyl feel.

Black Tie Dynasty, Down Like Anyone

While the glossy synths that marked much of Black Tie Dynasty's Movements are streaked across these 10 tracks, the quartet goes bigger and bolder on Down Like Anyone, a confident showing from one of the area's most consistently entertaining bands. Produced with help from John Congleton, Dynasty layers on strings and guitars while stripping Cory Watson's urgent, yearning vocals to the bone. The approach lends cuts like Lay Low, You Got a Lover or the fantastic Much Scarier a compelling immediacy.

T Bone Burnett, Tooth of Crime

This, Burnett's follow-up to his acclaimed 2006 comeback The True False Identity, is a violent, foreboding companion piece to playwright Sam Shepard's 1972 work of the same name. The twisted, tense soundscapes grab hold from the unsettling opener, Anything I Say Can and Will Be Used Against You, extending into the funereal Dope Island, a sinister track aided greatly by frequent Burnett collaborator Sam Phillips. The apocalyptic Crime explodes like a feverish dream but lingers on the margins of your mind.

Doug Burr, The Shawl

Denton singer/songwriter Burr (who made quite the impression with his 2007 sophomore effort, On Promenade) delivered one of the year's most delicate, haunting and consistently thrilling discs with The Shawl. The cumulative effect is overwhelming. Burr's plaintive voice wraps itself around these spare, often melancholy compositions, and while The Shawl has its roots in the Bible, the songs never feel overtly spiritual. Instead, there's a sustained air of reverence that makes tracks like Which We Have Heard and Known absolutely stunning.

Calhoun, Falter.Waver.Cultivate

Produced by Tim Locke, Stuart Sikes and Jordan Roberts, these tracks are straightforward, melodic indie rock sans pretense — it's a lot harder to create than you might think. It's a consistently engaging album rife with swooning pop flourishes and Locke's reliably incisive lyrics; Drifting and the bouncy Apocalypse (A Love Story) are high points.

Centro-matic/South San Gabriel, Dual Hawks

With each successive Centro-matic disc, I become more awed by singer/songwriter Will Johnson's seemingly limitless capacity for musical brilliance. As expected, the crunchier, up-tempo Centro-matic stuff sits in stark contrast with the achingly pastoral, luminous SSG tracks. Dual Hawks is a staggering, soaring accomplishment from one of North Texas' most essential artists and his massively talented band of collaborators.

The Cut*off, Packaged Up for Beginners

The Cowtown quintet's collaboration with uber-producer Salim Nourallah has resulted in some dark, devastatingly melodic compositions that slip under your skin and stay there. It's hard to shake the vocal similarities between Kyle Barnhill and Glen Phillips (not a bad thing, mind you) or the fine mixture of left-field non sequiturs and searing metaphors. Beginners is a masterful showing, a record that grows richer with each successive spin.

Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal

Guitarist and singer/songwriter Escovedo, who is based in the Hill Country town of Wimberley, survived a life-threatening bout of hepatitis C in 2003, and his latest record pulses with a vitality known only by the very young or the very grateful. Expansive at 13 tracks, Real Animal dabbles in a variety of styles, all of which manage to feel cohesive. Juxtaposing gorgeous sense-memories like Swallows of San Juan against raucous rave-ups like Chip N' Tony isn't jarring but rather is designed to underscore the extremes of the artist's life.

Fight Bite, Emerald Eyes

The North Texas duo of Jeff Louis and Leanne Macomber make sweet music under a savage name. The pair's full-length debut evokes the melancholy likes of My Bloody Valentine and Club 8, dusted with a hint of nostalgia. It's a breathtaking accomplishment, 10 mesmerizing tracks captured in spartan fashion. Macomber's ethereal voice is buried beneath swirling layers of keyboard and augmented by ambient effects (and Louis' - Ft. Worth Star Telegram

"Niosi layers it on"

Clint Niosi needed something more from his debut album than a collection of bare-bones folk numbers. The Fort Worth singer-songwriter waited years to make a definitive recording of his songs, and he wanted them to be something special.

Clint Niosi
So he asked friend and producer James Talambas – who plays with the Theater Fire – to help brighten up his dark guitar compositions with strings, horns, organ and the occasional backing chorus.

"Most of it was the two of us putting our heads together, and we had the means to do all this tracking," Niosi said in an interview last week. "We went into it with the attitude that if we wanted a certain instrument, we'd find someone who played that instrument."

Niosi released The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders in June.

Like the Theater Fire records, Horses takes you on a tour of rootsy styles, from finger-pickin' folk ("City Girl"), to bluesy ballads ("Weary Willow"), to chugga-chugga railroad rhythms ("The Sum of Parts").

Niosi completes the equation with compelling, often playful vocals throughout. And his English and history knowledge (he studied both at the University of Texas at Arlington) often finds its way into the lyrics.

Here's more from the 29-year-old singer on being a Texas transplant, warming up to the Fort Worth music scene and learning to like his own voice.

Q: You haven't always lived in Texas, right?

Niosi: I grew up in Minnesota, until I was almost 14. Then we moved to Mansfield, and it was a big culture shock. The biggest difference was, being in a suburb of Minneapolis, I could ride my bike wherever I wanted. I thought you could do that anywhere in the world. But in Mansfield, I rode my bike in every direction ... nothing. [Laughs.] After a few miles, I think I found a gas station.
Q: Tell me about your musical upbringing.

Niosi: I played trumpet for about five months in school and was in choir later. Just before I moved to Texas, my dad had bought an electric guitar. I was hoping it was for me, but it was for him. But I commandeered it whenever he was gone. He could see I was interested. As a teenager, I played Nirvana and was really big into Led Zeppelin. My older brother's tape collection helped a lot. When he switched to CD, I got all the tapes.

Q: And how did you start playing live at local venues?

Niosi: That all went along with getting my first car, and driving out to Dallas and Fort Worth. Fort Worth was a little bit closer. I'd had a garage band in Mansfield, and nobody else wanted to sing, which was how I got stuck with it. Later, I started taking my guitar to poetry readings and open mics. They were terribly nerve-wracking. It's funny in hindsight. I was terrified. My knees would shake and I'd sweat. Open mics get a bad rap, because you're always gonna see some bad stuff. They're so democratic that there'll be something bad. But I do still have a soft spot for them.
Q: How'd you hook up with James Talambas from Theater Fire?

Niosi: I met him at one of my shows. One day we were driving around and he was listening to the first Theater Fire album and going on and on about how great they were. Lo and behold, within a few months, he was in that band. Something to understand about Fort Worth is that there's a small-town feel to it. Even though it's a sizable metropolitan area, as far as the music thing goes, pretty much everybody knows everybody. If it's good, we end up hearing about it and meeting each other.
Q: You've been playing around for years, but you consider the new album your debut. Is that correct?

Niosi: This is my first real album, I guess. There's a lot of other stuff I recorded, but this is the first that was done at a nice studio, the first that we had mastered, the first you can get in a store. It was something I eventually had to do, as far as wanting to have a very professional product. There's not a good reason not to do it, I guess.

Q: Does it blow your mind to hear the intricacy of the finished product?

Niosi: Yes and no. I'm really proud of how it turned out. But I was there for it, too. [Laughs.] I didn't just record my parts and take off.

Q: I'm sure you get a lot of questions about the album title, 'The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders.'

Niosi: People seem to take it one of three ways. One is, "That's a really long title." [Laughs.] Some people don't make it past that. Or they'll think it's very macabre and dreary. Or they'll see the humor in it. The point of it was, you know, doing something against your best interest for people who don't care. It's about doing what you feel you have to do, even though it may not be rewarding.
Q: You've said you got into singing sort of by default. Do you still feel that way?

Niosi: I'm not a singer by default anymore. I think, over time, you get familiar with your own range and style. I've always been drawn to more of the crooner-type singers, like Roy Orbison. Not that my range is anywh - QuickDFW

"Love, Loss, and Dead Horses"

Sepia-toned singer-songwriter Clint Niosi makes his polycarbonate debut — finally.


Clint Niosi's debut album has been a couple of years in coming. The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders is a sly and evidently apt description of the Gen-X singer-songwriter's music career. Lamentations of art not appreciated and voices not heard pop up throughout his delectable brassy-folk treat produced by The Theater Fire's James Talambas. The dead horses, of course, are his songs, most of which have been worked and re-worked over the years. The cold shoulders belong to you.

Niosi has been writing, recording, and performing — quietly, apparently — for about 10 years. In addition to having a member of the vaunted Theater Fire in his corner as both producer and multi-instrumentalist, Niosi also has a backing band that includes several North Texas big-shots: Tame … Tame and Quiet's Aaron Bartz on guitar and Boyd Dixon on drums, Top Secret … Shhh's Marcus Lawyer on bass, fellow singer-songwriter Kristina Morland providing backing vocals, violinist Nicole Amundsen (former of Southern Methodist University's Meadows Symphony Orchestra), and cellist Emma Hertz (formerly of Peter and The Wolf).

There's a good reason Niosi is in such esteemed company. His tunes are epic — minimalist but totally sweeping. The arrangements are non-intrusive, just simple combinations of drums, acoustic guitar, strings, and brass that form skyscraping walls of sound while giving life to Niosi's dynamic melodies. The overt influences, such as Robert Plant, Midlake, and the aforementioned Theater Fire, surface occasionally, and with his wavy, arrow-through-the-heart delivery — always nearing a falsetto but never quite committing to it and often jazzy — Niosi sounds like an older Jeff Buckley (R.I.P.).

The pitiable mood isn't a gimmick but completely apropos, considering the ancient sins and sorrows at the heart of his songs. The two-part opener "My Mephistophilis" enters like The Theater Fire's catchy "These Tears Could Rust a Train," with a jaunty finger-plucked acoustic rhythm bouncing over a delicate, snappy beat. "I'd never call him my friend, though he's there when I need him," Niosi sings, jamming the entire second phrase into seemingly just a couple of syllables. "Mephistophilis and I / Got one hella unholy union."

At first, the singer sounds like a soldier, perhaps one of the U.S. variety fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, rationalizing his behavior. "When your colleagues are on the line / It's easy enough to forget / Truth, beauty, and love / Are just your foolish alibis." But as the song goes on, you might start thinking, heck, he sounds like all of us, compromising our morals for "gifts of wealth and earthly power … 'Cause, come on, now / Who needs eternal salvation / When you've got a friend today to get you by … by … by …"

In the second, shorter half of the piece, the singer comes to terms with his fate. The beat darkens to a stomp, and as mournful strings swell in the background, a violin slashes dissonantly across the tableau, Psycho-ishly but more slowly. "There. Will. Be. No redemption," he sings. "There. Will. Be. No forgiveness / The god I have forsaken / To these events shall bear witness."

Dr. Faustus isn't the only reference to Lit 101 on the album, not that Niosi needs to drop names to let you know he's a smart guy and smart tunesmith. "Villanelle No. 1" is exactly what it says it is, the lyrics written in the high-Renaissance poetic form, and "Van Gogh Complex" finds the singer lovesick and spiraling somewhat happily into madness. ("I poured a glass of absinthe, and I tried to force a sick smile / But in the morning I know what I must do / I'll send a little piece of myself to you.") And, going back to Dead Horses' subtext, the afflicted party could be Niosi himself, in what's arguably the album's catchiest number, which is saying a lot because most of the tracks skew toward listener-friendliness. "I've never been good with people, I live inside a brain," he sings. "I work hard all the time, but I never sell a goddamn thing."

Frustration, natch, is around every corner. Niosi leavens it, expertly (and thankfully), with wit and good ol' fashioned kick-ass music. His snarkiest outing — "City Girl," a paean to a hipster-princess — is also a scathing indictment, namely of the inner-city-hipster lifestyle (for whose charms the endearingly scruffy Niosi has most likely fallen). Over an acoustic progression that conjures up Cat Stevens' "Wild World" ("Oooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world") and bubbly, gently clacking rimshots, he loads on the sarcasm: "Goodbye, color green / So much more to be seen / Goodbye, sky of blue / Yeah, who needs you."

All of the tracks are straightforward, and most of them have judiciously placed nuances that give everything some depth and never seem gratuitous. The acoustic-guitar riff that drives "Van Gogh Complex" alternates between joyous, carefree - Fort Worth Weekly


LP - The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders (2008, NMR)



Clint Niosi is a multi award nominated singer, songwriter, guitarist and national touring artist with a hard earned reputation as one the premiere voices of North Texas. With a sly literary wit and healthy helpings of humor and drama Clint’s songs are meditations best savored and explored through repeated listening expeditions. Drawing from a rich tradition of songwriters including Leonard Cohen, Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Drake Clint continually pushes against the grain and status quo in search of unfamiliar sonic and lyrical terrain.

Clint Niosi has shared the stage with many acclaimed artists including VietNam, Chris Masterson (of Son Volt), Jana Hunter, The Republic Tigers, The Lovely Sparrows, The Theater Fire, The Weird Weeds and Musée Mécanique. In 2008 Clint Niosi released his ambitious debut album The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders. The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders was listed as one of the top 20 Texas albums of 2008 by the Star Telegram, received an honorable mention as one of the top albums of 2008 by QuickDFW, and received a nomination for “Album of the Year” from Fort Worth Weekly.

In 2008 Clint was nominated for “Best Alternative Country” by the Fort Worth Weekly. In 2009 Clint was nominated for “Big Solo Artist” by QuickDFW. Also in 2009 Clint was nominated for four awards by the Fort Worth Weekly including “Best Folk/Acoustic”, “Best Songwriter”, “Song of the Year” for My Mephistophilis and “Album of the Year” for The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders.
Currently Clint is recording the highly anticipated follow up to 2008’s The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders with producer James Talambas (The Theater Fire) for a 2010 release. Clint is also scoring the music for the film Hot/Cold from award winning director Frank Mosley.