Jennifer Niceley
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Jennifer Niceley

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"It might seem premature to call this Nashville singer's first full-length a break-through, but that's very much the way it sounds. Along with Cat Power and Beth Orton, Niceley moves around plush sheets of sound with troubled emotions and sensual insights. She draws on the blues for personal strength, and on string sections -- meticulously and soulfully arranged and performed by Chris Carmichael -- for grace. Those strings turn Bobby Blue Bland's "Blind Man" into "Blind Woman", and along with Niceley's darting and lingering phrasing, transform the song into a drama that both Bobbie Gentry and Nina Simone would recognize. And while her voice will remind some of Billie Holiday, it's Simone that Niceley most often evokes. Her passions may be personal rather than political, but she employs jazz intonations to give her lyrics --- sometimes surreal and naturalist, sometimes as direct as a Hoagy Carmichael standard --- an otherwordly but instantly felt resonance. Producer and guitarist Joe McMahan pressurizes every figure, sometimes red-lining his slide swells, sometimes playing against the melody like a post-jazz improviser, sometimes dissolving notes like sugar cubes in bourbon. The rhythm section of Dave Jacques and Rick Reed sounds like soft rain through dogwood trees, gently complementing stories of soul journeys through shadows and mountains and visions seen through dark eyes. Moody, restive, and purposeful, Niceley has made one of the most purely beautiful records of the year." -- Roy Kasten - No Depression


November 10, 2007 @ The Basement —Jennifer Niceley

Jennifer Niceley Continues to Impress, Delivering Jazz-Infused Poetic Meditations on Nature

Jennifer Niceley's recently released debut CD Luminous is a dissonantly beautiful jazz record filled with haunting lyrics that poetically describe the struggle between the city's hardscapes and nature's landscapes. Born and raised on a farm outside of Knoxville, Niceley now lives among the hardscapes of Nashville amid the rising condominium towers and continued development along the Cumberland River. However, Niceley's not at home surrounded by concrete, and she often travels back to her family farm to reconnect with nature—a setting she longs for often. Indeed, Niceley's lyrics are poetic meditations on the beauty of nature and, indirectly, its slow destruction as it gives-way to the bulldozers of humankind.

More a naturalist than an environmentalist, Niceley's music often documents the emotional and sensory charge that being alone with nature brings. Not only is her vocal delivery hypnotically soft and tranquil like the relaxing flow of river water, her guitarist Joe McMahan delivers melancholic dissonant jazz riffs that seem to mimic the cries of the wilderness. Niceley's live performances are consistently superb, bringing the record's production polish to life and then some. Indeed, it is a rare occasion when a chatty Basement crowd ceases conversations to devote all of their attention toward the stage. But Niceley's vocals are like no other, and the capacity crowd came to a complete silence upon hearing Niceley launch into "Dark Eyes," a song that begins with Niceley's a capella vocal.

Niceley and McMahan have been performing some high-profile gigs recently, playing both Bonnaroo and the Austin City Limits Festival. Their presentation of the music is as good as it gets in Nashville. To be sure, during Niceley's 45-minute set the audience's gaze remained intently fixed upon the stage. The set consisted of many tracks on Luminous, as well as another song (perhaps a new one) that Niceley performed solo. All record labels with an ounce of sense regarding quality music should be paying close attention to Jennifer Niceley—and you should too. Buy the record, and go see this amazing singer when the opportunity arises. —Vincent Wynne - ListenNashville.com


"A poetic record that never sounds pretentious, Luminous incorporates dissonant guitars, swaying strings and pregnant pauses, and recalls the fat, live sound of an early-’60s blues record. It takes a special talent to retool Don Robey and Joe Scott’s “Blind Man”— rendered by Bobby Bland on his 1964 Ain’t Nothing You Can Do LP, and later covered by Little Milton and Traffic—as “Blind Woman,” but Niceley’s version is a bluesy slow drag that might be the record’s triumph. When she sings, “I’m living in a world of darkness / But that don’t bother me,” it’s heroic, crazy and thrilling...Luminous is addictive and subtly twisted, and Niceley’s songs are starting points for deeper meditation. In fact, her great theme might be the limits of nostalgia, which puts her in a venerable pop-music tradition."
--Edd Hurt
- Nashville Scene


Discography

Seven Songs EP -Released 2004
Luminous LP -Released 2007

Tracks that have or have had radio play: "Blind Woman", "A Little More", "Dark Eyes", "Nightwalk", "Biloxi"

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Bio

"If you're still wondering what Billie Joe and his paramour threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge, here's an unexplored theory: It was the unborn blueprint for the music of Jennifer Niceley, a Knoxville-raised, East Nashville-based singer and songwriter with a flair for Southern gothic drama and a torch to bear for all the hearts her after-after-hours croon sends down river. With her new full-length debut Luminous, she rewrites Bobby Blue Bland's "Blind Man" as "Blind Woman," letting a luxuriant string section wash away the blues, and redefines sultry soul the way Neko Case redefines moody alt-country or Billie Holiday redefines jazz balladry. Guided by the shadowy slide and distended riffs of guitarist Joe McMahan, Niceley evokes midnight confessions, turbulent romance and a dark, flowing, mysterious lyricism."