Nowhere Slow
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Nowhere Slow

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The best kept secret in music

Press


Noise is not welcome here. This is a place of music.

In the next room over, guitars hang from the walls. The coffee table is a bass drum and the end table is a piano. In this room, anything is possible.

They feel at home here because of the music and because of the possibility.

Because even though it’s not a big building — just a small recording studio built from chopped-down trees and sound proofed against the world — in here, no dream is too big.

Collectively they are Nowhere Slow, and together they are one of the top acts in the Scranton music scene. They’ve filled local clubs, released two independent albums and heard their songs on the radio.

It’s the stuff of dreams to be sure, but not quite the dream.

They come to this room to take their music beyond their hometown and into their wildest imaginations.

Bassist Will Clauss is here after driving home from Penn State. He’s a junior, but he’s already told his parents he will drop out the moment Capitol or Sony or any other record company comes calling.

Guitarists Rick Gillette and John Canjar are here after spending another night sleeping under their parents’ roofs. Both are college graduates, but they’re choosing not to use the degrees that could land them more traditional and lucrative jobs.

Drummer Jeff Hertzog is here for the next few minutes, but he has to leave for his day job soon. At 27, he’s the oldest in the group and, with a 7-year-old son, the one who most obviously can’t live for a dream forever. The future is now, and it has his last name.

They come together in this little room, in this little studio, tucked away in little Mount Cobb to write and record and to dream of where the music and the possibility could take them.

Becoming a rock star might seem a fool’s ambition, and maybe it is.

But surely giving up a dream, when it might be coming true, is just as foolish.

There is a cassette tape of Rick and Jeff playing music as a duo. The cousins recorded it themselves, with Rick on vocals and Jeff on guitar, playing songs they had recently written.

They recorded it when they were 7 and 11 years old.

Essentially, Nowhere Slow started with that tape of bare-bones songs recorded by two kids more than 15 years ago.

Officially, the band started in 1997, when Rick had to bum a ride to the first gig because he wasn‘t old enough to drive.

Now 23, Rick picked up guitar from Jeff, who gave up the instrument only to be convinced by his cousin to buy a drum kit. Rick was a sophomore at Bishop O’Hara and Jeff a recent graduate of Wallenpaupack when they formed Nowhere Slow with two of their friends.

They are the only original members to have stuck with the band.

Dreams do come true, just not all of them.

There is no boogey man, no monster in the closet, nothing hiding under the bed.

And not every band that ships demos to record labels ends up with a recording contract and a headlining gig at Madison Square Garden.

Some of them do, though.

Windmill Productions Studio in Mount Cobb is not where Nowhere Slow’s dream started, it’s just where the band started earnestly working toward making it a reality.

After taking roughly 11 hours to record each of its two full-length albums, Nowhere Slow spent three months in that studio last year to record a three-song EP called “Damn Time Machines.”

Three months might seem a long time for three songs, and it is, but those sessions were about more than three tracks on a plastic disc.

“Damn Time Machines” was recorded to make a good first impression on more than a dozen record labels, including the biggest names in the business. When it was finished, the EP was shipped as Nowhere Slow’s first demo — a musical handshake and 15-minute conversation.

Nowhere Slow basically walked through the door and introduced itself.

To a large fan base back home, the band needs no introduction.

At Tink’s and Heil’s — two of Scranton’s most popular clubs — Nowhere Slow is an in-demand act. John Heil, who owns both establishments, has Nowhere Slow booked weekly into the coveted Friday night happy-hour slot at Tink’s and he has the band inked into the rotation to play Heil’s every fourth Monday, a wildly popular night for the club’s college-age crowd.

“I’ve been having them play at Tink’s and Heil’s for maybe the past year, year-and-a-half, and they just keep getting more popular every time they play,” Mr. Heil said.

Recording contract or not, it seems inevitable that Nowhere Slow will eventually build beyond this city. The bands has discussed booking gigs in Wilkes-Barre and beyond, but aside from a handful of shows, the band has stayed in Scranton.

Those three songs, recorded from October to December of last year, stand as the band’s biggest and most important venture outside of the area. While the demo didn’t lead to a flood of contract offers, it did spark interest and requests for more.

In the spring, Nowhere Slow made three live recordings that will be shipped to labels and music executives in the next month. The band, meanwhile, is back in Windmill Productions Studio writing and recording what will likely become a third full-length album.

“I think right now we just see it going in the right direction,” Rick said. “It’s definitely not where we want to be, but hopefully we’re getting closer every day.”

Consider the group a monster in the closet, starting to come to life.

There is a bass guitar that was nearly destroyed by a 12-year-old who didn’t quite know what he was doing. Will has tracked it down and thinks it currently belongs to a guy in Las Vegas.

Nearly 10 years ago, Will’s older sister brought that electric bass home from high school to learn to play in the school jazz band. Will was just a sixth-grader, but when he fell in love with the sound, he fell hard, and started trying to teach himself to play.

Now 21, Will was a senior at Wallenpaupack and already a veteran performer when he first heard Nowhere Slow in the winter of 2002. Again, he fell hard.

By the time he joined the band in 2003, Will already owned a copy of the group’s first album, “Look Up and Jam,” signed by Rick.

“I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve got to get his autograph because they’re going to be huge,’” Will said.

Along Route 220, across Interstate 80 and up I-81, the trip from State College to Scranton should take about two and a half hours. Will does it in two hours and 15 minutes, and has the speeding tickets to show for it.

He makes that drive at least once a weekend to play Tink’s on Fridays and once a month to play Heil’s on Mondays.

Those Monday night gigs end at 2 a.m., leaving Will six hours to reload his gear, drive back to school and take a nap before his business-management class starts at 8 on Tuesday morning.

He swears he hasn’t missed that class all year.

Nowhere Slow’s original bassist left the group to take a job in Syracuse, N.Y. The band fired one guitarist for missing practice and another for skipping shows.

That doesn’t fly, not with these guys, not with John letting his English degree from the University of Scranton sit unused and with Rick and Jeff doing the same with their marketing degrees from Penn State, Worthington Scranton.

They believe music is more than clangs and bangs coming out of a speaker. Music is their trade, it’s what they’ve devoted their lives to, so four-and-a-half hours on the road is not too much to ask or too much to sacrifice.

“Sooner or later I’m going to have to get out of my parents’ house and that might mean working as a pizza-delivery boy while I can do this other stuff,” John said. “Anything that gives me the opportunity to try this while there’s still a chance, while I’m still young and have the hope of doing it. That carrot’s still dangling in front of me, so I’m not going to give up the course just yet.”

A Saturday night at Tink’s earns each band member about 200 bucks. Rick and John play solo acoustic gigs for a little extra cash. It’s enough money to get by, which, for now, is plenty.

Obviously, there is a higher standard for Jeff.

His job as a Don Pablo’s bartender makes the ends meet, but his 6-year-old son, Tyler, isn‘t getting any younger, and in less than three years, Jeff will be 30. That’s when he says it has to stop, when he’ll have to let go of the dream, put the degree to use and let the music become little more than a hobby.

That said, Jeff knows that when 30 rolls around there will be nothing stopping him from giving it one more year, then one more year after that.

“I always have that uncertainty,” he said. “Everyone else is always like 100 percent it’s going to happen, but in my mind, I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s going to happen.

“But that point-one percent is killing me.”

There is a movie called “La Bamba,” and because of that movie there was once no bigger Ritchie Valens fan than a little boy in Dickson City. He used to go to kindergarten and sing “La Bamba” at the top of his lungs for all the lunch ladies.

At 13, John was already playing guitar. At 15, he was in his first band. In January, he was playing in a local band on the verge of a hiatus while Nowhere Slow was, at the same time, looking for a new lead guitarist.

John, now 22, was a year behind Rick at Bishop O’Hara, and although they weren’t particularly close in high school, they did lead remarkably parallel lives — starting bands with friends, taking guitars to parties, playing at local bars.

In January, Rick asked John to sit in for a Nowhere Slow show. Then another. Pretty soon the quick fix turned into a perfect fit, and the band says its lineup has never been stronger.

The music certainly doesn’t argue.

Eric Ritter knows the dream, and that’s why he built the room.

That studio in Mount Cobb is his. He and his brother, Ian, built it with more than a little help from their father.

The Ritters know the dream because they’ve had it, night after night, and they’ve seen it come true. The back room of their studio is lined with pictures of their band, New Past Life, playing the nearly 18,000-seat capacity Hollywood Bowl in California.

Eric and Ian grew up in Mount Cobb, just a few miles from where Rick lives today. They played Heil’s. They played Tink’s. They played setlists full of cover songs to sometimes sparse audiences and shipped demos to record labels and took their music outside of Scranton all in the hope of being signed and making it in the business.

And they did get signed, and they toured the nation, and even if they didn’t become the next U2, they played from coast to coast, got paid to write, record and play their own music, and get to keep doing all of that to this day.

They let Nowhere Slow use their studio — helping the band produce songs and ship demos — because they know the dream and know it can come true. And because they believe they could be watching it come true right now.

“They’re in the mix and they’re a band that everybody is watching,” Eric said. “It’s that kind of thing. It’s that close. I’ve seen it before. The point they are, they don’t know if somebody is going to show up at Tink’s tomorrow night. They’re at that level where a record executive could be there. It’s that kind of thing.”

That’s why, even with more practical choices all around him, Jeff refuses to give up. Not yet. Not when he can smell it and taste it and dang near touch it.

There is a long and uncertain road in front of them, and while Jeff, John and Will get excited talking about the stops along the way — spreading their music to Wilkes-Barre, then maybe State College, then Philadelphia and wherever else the road leads — Rick can’t help himself. He’s focused on the big prize. He looks a million miles down the road, hell bent on getting there.

A recording contract isn’t the golden ticket. It doesn’t assure a life of music and happiness — the stuff of dreams — but it assures Nowhere Slow of an opportunity.

“If we have the chance and, God forbid, I hope not, but if we fail, at least we had the chance,” Rick said. “My biggest worry is just never getting the chance. There is nothing more I ever want to do, so that would just kill me to never have the chance.”

In this little room, in this little studio, they are very much alive, breathing in music without noise and possibility without limitation.

Outside of these walls, the real world awaits, but nothing says reality can’t be the stuff of dreams.

“When you’re a kid,” Rick said, “and you’re sitting there and you’re watching MTV and you’re like, ‘Man, I want to be up there because it looks so fun.’

“It really is that fun.”

Becoming a rock star might seem a fool’s ambition, and maybe it is.

But some dreams really do come true.

For those who dare to chase them.

Sometimes a compliment is simply too complimentary, and before John Canjar spoke, he knew this was one of those moments.

He joined Nowhere Slow in January, three years after the band recorded its first album, a year after it released its second album and just a few months after it recorded the demo that was mailed to record labels in hopes of eventually landing a recording contract.

He came to the band as a veteran performer and student of all things musical. He studied English in college, and talks about albums the same way the talks about novels. He thinks Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour might be the greatest guitarist of all time, even if no one else is ready to back him up on that. And he’s certain the Beatles were the greatest band ever assembled, turning pop music into an art form.

So when John spoke about Nowhere Slow’s original material, he wasn’t talking about music he’d written, and he wasn’t oblivious to the level of compliment he was about to give songwriter Rick Gillette.

“He would probably cringe at the thought of me saying this,” John said. “But it’s kind of a Paul McCartney-type thing. He just knows how to write a pop song.”

Ultimately, it will be Nowhere Slow’s music that determines whether the band’s career is a dream come true or just an enjoyable journey.

The band’s sound is based around danceable rock that’s comfortable on an acoustic guitar but has enough bite not to feel wimpy. It’s instantly familiar, without feeling generic.

Singing lead, Rick gives the band a unique and identifiable voice. It’s not Coldplay-style falsetto, but it’s comfortably higher than the norm — just high enough to standout from run-of-the-mill front men.

And while Rick, drummer Jeff Hertzog and bassist Will Clauss are awfully good musicians in the their own right — Will even added some piano on the band’s second album — John has given the group considerable musical muscle, adding punch to those originals that were written before he came on board.

Lyrically, Rick is a hopeless romantic, with his words inevitably finding their way to familiar themes of love lost and found. He and John, who has plenty of song-writing experience himself, have spent the past few weeks writing together for the first time, getting songs ready for a new release.

It’s too early to say whether all that will translate to a long, successful career in the music business, but in a live setting, their originals fit seamlessly into a setlist of popular covers, which is a good sign.

“It comes down to having songs and they do,” producer Eric Ritter said. “They know what they have. They are all smart guys. If they didn’t know how good the music is, they wouldn’t do it.”


A fast guide to Nowhere Slow

How they sound

Front man Rick Gillette often names Dave Matthews and John Mayer as his two biggest influences, and both are pretty solid comparisons. Nowhere Slow plays acoustic-driven rock that is both melodic and danceable. It covers bands ranging from Sublime to Oasis to Dashboard Confessional exceptionally well, with John Canjar, Jeff Hertzog and Will Clauss adding considerable meat around Rick’s acoustic guitar.

IF YOU GO
In concert, expect a setlist of mostly covers, with original material often used to close setlists or open encores.
Watch Will anytime the band plays a cover of U2’s “With or Without You.” One night he broke the thickest string on his bass — a string that is quite simply not suppossed to break — during that song. Another night he broke the strap and another night he jumped onto the cord from his guitar to his amp, sending his amp tumbling to the floor. Suffice it to say, he gets a little intense.
When the band goes into Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” be ready for anything. Even the band isn’t sure what’s coming. The musicians basically treat that song as a potentially endless jam, with Rick and John singing any song they can think of that fits the rhythm. It will go for more than 15 minutes some nights.
Don’t be confused if half the people around you suddenly raise their hands. It’s a play off the first line in the chorus to Nowhere Slow’s original, “With You.” “If you’ve got a question, raise your hand, if you’ve got an answer, fill me in.”
IN THE STUDIO

“Look Up and Jam” (2002)

Nowhere Slow’s first album is largely acoustic guitar driven, even more so its recent work. Some of these early songs are still making their way into Rick’s solo acoustic sets. The album’s seventh track, “Tyler’s Song,” was written for Jeff’s son. Without a bassist at the time, Rick and then-lead guitarist Jim Alba played bass on the record.

Essential tracks: “Now and Then,” “Hello”

“2 Weeks” (2004)

There is a much fuller sound on Nowhere Slow’s second album. The production quality is better, the songs feel more complete and Rick’s songwriting is much stronger. The fifth track, “Cellar Door,” is a Nowhere Slow concert staple with several of the other songs showing up in setlists from time to time. Will played piano on the ninth track, “Tonight.”

Essential tracks: “Cellar Door,” “The Greatest Story Never Told”

“Damn Time Machines” (2005)

This three-song EP was recorded as a demo and mailed to record labels. It is easily the band’s best studio work to date and although it was not officially released on disc, it is availiable as a free download on the band’s Web site. The song “Letter” from this EP will be included on the upcoming compilation CD released by radio station 102.3 the Mountain.

Essential tracks: “Letter,” “With You”

Untitled

(Scheduled for 2006)

According to the plan, there will be a new Nowhere Slow disc ready for release sometime next year. The band is currently spending time in Windmill Productions Studio — where it recorded “Damn Time Machines” — writing and recording new material for a new record. Although it could be an extended EP, the band has hopes of emerging with its third full-length album, the first with John on lead guitar.

ON THE WEB

www.nowhereslow.com


MEET THE BAND MEMBERS

Rick Gillette

23 years old

Lead vocals/rhythm guitar

Hometown: Lake Ariel

Family: Mother Sandy, father Rick, brother Nick

Education: Bachelor’s in marketing from Penn State University, Worthington Scranton campus.

Inspiration: “Just if I could affect even one person, that the words would mean something to them. Not that I want people to buy a thousand albums, it’s just the fact that people sing along and it means something to them. Music means so much to me, and it’s the idea I could pass that on.”

John Canjar

22 years old

Lead guitar/backing vocals

Hometown: Dickson City

Family: Mother Donna, father John, sister Jaclyn, niece Ashley

Education: Bachelor of arts in English from the University of Scranton

Inspiration: “Probably I can sum it all up in the Beatles. The things that inspire me to do this are albums like ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ and ‘Revolver’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘The Wall.’ Basically, music is just its own reward.”

Will Clauss

21 years old

Bass

Hometown: Lake Wallenpaupack Family: Father Peter, mother Margot, sisters Corrie and Sarah

Education: Junior accounting ma-jor at Penn State main campus

Inspiration: “It’s kind of like how people like to write poems or whatever. It’s a great form of expression as well as a stress reliever, but seeing people sing your songs or be into what you do is a big inspiration.”

Jeff Hertzog

27 years old

Drums

Hometown: Lake Wallenpaupack

Family: Mother Kathy, father Greg, brother Shawn, son Tyler

Education: Bachelor’s in marketing from Penn State University, Worthington Scranton campus.

Inspiration: “Tyler. I would just like to be successful for him, just to be a good role model. I hope he sees that if you work hard enough, you can get anything you want. If you work hard at something, anything’s possible.” - by Chad Jennings staff writer The Times Tribune


When Nowhere Slow drops its new CD is just a few weeks, some things will be new, while others will stay the same. But vocalist and guitarist Rick Gillette says the new record — the band’s fourth and its first in three years — should satisfy its fans while also allowing the group to grow as musicians.

“It’s not going to be a huge departure for Nowhere Slow fans,” he says. “It’s the same type of poppy rock songs that we had before. But we go a little heavier on this album, and we even go a little lighter, so it’s kind of got everything on it. I think we can please almost everyone.”

Gillette says the musical changes that did come during the sessions weren’t calculated but rather happened quite organically. And that, perhaps most importantly, is what’s most pleasing to the band.

“I think it’s just a progression,” he says. “You’re on your fourth album, and you want to explore other realms of your musical taste or development. I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for the last three years, and it was like, ‘What would happen if I put an electric on?’ That was kind of what we were looking for. Explore everything, and not just limit ourselves to what we considered our go-to Nowhere Slow sound.”

Rounding out the Nowhere Slow lineup is Will Clauss on bass, John Canjar on guitar and Matt Kester on drums. The new CD is a follow-up to 2001’s “Look Up And Jam,” 2005’s “Two Weeks” and 2007’s “Stranger In The Alps.” It was recorded at Windmill Studios in Mt. Cobb, was produced by Eric Ritter and is being mastered at Abbey Road studios in London. Song titles include “Made You Look,” “Go Away,” “Same Old Love Song” and “This Is Our Night.”

Though Nowhere Slow has been a popular working band in NEPA for nine years, the forthcoming CD will be the first on which Canjar and Kester have been a part of the project from the beginning. Gillette says the two have been a big plus for the band.

“It’s definitely affected the record,” he says. “The two of them have worked together their whole lives. It was very easy for them to adjust, musically. And Matt knew the songs for the longest time. He used to do sound for us for years. It was a really easy transition. John and Matt are both extremely musical people and very talented musicians, so it definitely gave us a little more of musical edge.”

Gillette names Dave Mathews, John Mayer and Third Eye Blind as some of his influences and favorites, and says songs by acts such as Kings Of Leon, Train and Maroon 5 all sometimes show up in the band’s sets. He adds, however, that although the group’s members have plenty of common bonds when it comes to music, their differences have also had a positive impact on the band.

“I go as heavy as Breaking Benjamin, and I go as soft as Michael Buble,” he says. “I know it’s typical to say, but I really do like everything. And the rest of the guys, we’re pretty much the same. We all have stuff in common that we like, and we all have stuff that we can kind of show each other. I was never into The Beatles that much until John started really showing me some of their stuff. It’s not that I didn’t respect them, I just never got into it. It’s cool that we all have this little different backgrounds that we can show each other, and it kind of helps us develop our sound.”

Gillette says the band feels fortunate to have been a busy and working unit for nearly a decade. He says that shortly after Nowhere Slow debuted, the NEPA club scene began to slide, and that he is aware it might not be possible today for a new band to find such immediate success. But there’s more to luck and good timing involved in Nowhere Slow’s longevity. The band is professional and personable, and, as recently seen at its performance at the Weekender/Mountaingrown Original Music Series, it has some great new songs in its repertoire.

Gillette says it all comes from two things: passion for music and a constant desire to get better.

“First of all, we love what we do,” he says. “And second of all, I don’t think we’ve even begun to peak yet. In 2001, back at the time, I was an 18- or 19-year-old kid, and I was a little naive in thinking that what we did was this decent album. But listening back to it now, I’m like, ‘Oh my God. This is just awful.’ Back then, we were just kids trying to do it, and I think we’re still are kids trying to do it, we’re just progressing more. We still have a ton to learn, and we have a ton to do. We still have that ‘we’re-just-starting’ mentality. It doesn’t get old for us.”

Nor does releasing new songs that connect with fans, which should happen again in August with the release of the new album.

“You talk about music being art, and they always say, ‘Once you complete a song, it’s not yours anymore. It’s somebody else’s.’ I try to take that to heart, and use that with everything I do with music. It’s not just about me as an artist. It’s about the people that are coming to see you. Because if they don’t come to see you, you can’t do what you do. So it’s kind of theirs, too. That’s how I always think about it.” - By Alan K Stout, Musicn Columnist, The Weekender


Discography

Listen/Love (Tentative) (2010)
In Post-Production

Stranger In the Alps (2007)
1. With You
2. Boy Like Me
3. One More Day
4. Letter
5. Far In Between
6. Chameleon
7. This Old Man
8. The World Outside
9. Lets Go
10. Memory (Goodbye)
11. New Moon (Live)
12. Ditto (Live)
13. Cellar Door (Live)

Damn Time Machines (EP) (2006)
1.
2.
3.

2 Weeks (2003)
1. The Greatest Story Never Told
2. Get Up
3. Ditto
4. New Moon
5. Cellar Door
6. Shorty for Life
7. Indecision
8. In Dreams
9. Tonight
10. Signs and Streetlights
11. Deja Vu
12. Truce

Look Up and Jam (2002)
1. Now and Then
2. Our Way
3. Shorty For Life
4. Horizons
5. Twenty
6. Hello
7. Tyler's Song
8. Over My Head
9. Somebody
10. Better Days
11. Blink

Photos

Bio

As a winding guitar riff finds its way home, the drums and bass drop out suddenly and Nowhere Slow’s latest studio album opens with two words.

Wake up!

It is both an announcement and an invitation. Having played in front of packed clubs in Northeastern Pennsylvania for the better part of a decade, Nowhere Slow has reached new heights with Listen/Love, its fourth and most ambitious studio album. Blending pop sensibility with tight harmonies and melodic songwriting, the four-piece band has branched out in every way, exploring new sounds while booking new venues and finding new challenges on stage and in the studio.

Formed in 1997 as a collaboration between teenage cousins Rick Gillette and Jeff Hertzog, Nowhere Slow has won radio play and steady press coverage while rising from small gigs in corner bars to packed shows at the largest clubs in the Scranton area.

As the band’s principle songwriter and lead singer, Gillette is a pop music savant with a knack for hooks and melody. He was at the center of the band’s largely acoustic debut, Look Up And Jam, but the band began to add musical muscle with the addition of bassist Will Clauss in 2002. Bringing a heavier rock edge to Gillette’s singer-songwriter style, the 2003 release 2 Weeks was a more well-round, full-band album that began to establish Nowhere Slow as a legitimate original act.

With a mix self-stylized covers and original material, Nowhere Slow was quickly becoming one of the most popular acts in the Scranton area when veteran John Canjar joined on lead guitar in 2005. With his roots in jam and classic rock, Canjar brought technical know-how and professional craftsmanship to Gillette’s already catchy songwriting, and 2007’s Stranger In The Alps was a giant leap forward. It landed Nowhere Slow on local compilation albums, increased its radio presence and led to side-stage gigs at Toyota Pavilion, opening for the likes of James Taylor and John Mayer.

In 2010, Nowhere Slow has risen to a new level. Hertzog stepped away to spend more time with his young son, and the band added local professional Matt Kester on drums. A longtime friend of the band, Kester brought a polished but explosive backbone that left Gillette and Canjar free to explore new realms of songwriting, while Clauss delved further into his own funk and hard rock influences. The result is Listen/Love, a bold musical statement produced by Eric Ritter (NewPastLife, Cider) and mastered at Abbey Road Studios. For Nowhere Slow’s loyal fan base, the new songs became requested setlist additions even before the album’s release, and the band began expanding from its Scranton base to play its new material in front of new crowds at new venues.

The music is always a work in progress, but Nowhere Slow has found its identity in a sound both catchy and challenging; accessible without feeling generic. In a live setting, the band breathes new life into cover songs while winning audiences with its originals. The musical evolution continues, but Nowhere Slow has found its stride. The new album is a wake up call, and this locally established band is ready for a new day.