Music Review: Danielle Nicole's 'Wolf Den'
Wolf Den (Concord Music Group)
If the blues were an amputated, gushing heart, Danielle Nicole (Schnebelen) would gladly pick it up and pin it to her sleeve for the sake of a song.
After the Schnebelen family band, Trampled Under Foot, parted ways last year, Nicole wasted no time in creating the Danielle Nicole Band. Wolf Den, her debut solo album, hemorrhages tales of pain and vulnerability from the daily trouble of finding a love that lasts.
Crescendoing to drive home sad points and growling through more sinister lyrics, Nicole evokes Amy Winehouse in “Just Give Me Tonight.” It’s as if she started singing standing, and then slowly crumbles to the ground by the end of the song, exhaling anguish into every note on the way down.
The furious blues-rock “Didn’t Do You No Good” stomps like White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” as Nicole bemoans her failed attempts to save someone who didn’t want to be rescued. “You were playing some silly game,” she sings, “Now you’re living as you watch me bleed.” The loser Nicole is singing about may be watching her bleed, but we get to hear it.
Though this record is mostly a lyrical downer, drummer Stanton Moore kicks off half of the album’s tracks with dance-commanding fills that boogie along to Nicole’s bass lines and the guitar of Anders Osborne, a Grammy-winning producer suggested by Nicole’s label, Concord Music Group. Osborne’s production blends the band’s powerful jams perfectly to bolster Nicole’s sultry vocals.
“You Only Need Me When You’re Down,” which is receiving the most radio play, opens with sticks clicking and a swing beat soon joined by Osborne’s crunchy chords. After Nicole gripes that some greedy friend only comes up “kissing her cheeks” for money, Osborne hammers home her annoyance with a short, sassy solo.
Keyboardist Mike “Shinetop Jr.” Sedovic’s organ oozes in and out of emptier moments throughout the record. On “How You Gonna Do Me Like That,” while Nicole reflects on how she missed all the signs of “a long time coming kind of love” until it was almost too late — “It was like I was buried in sand to my neck and I couldn’t breathe/You came up to me with a rope in your hand/Pulled me right out of my misery” — Sedovic mingles a bouncing a melody with Moore’s syncopated hand claps and leisurely beat. It sounds as if it was written on an especially sticky day in New Orleans, where the album was recorded in six days.
In less than one year, Nicole has released a self-titled EP and sold-out of autographed copies of Wolf Den before its release. It’s clear Nicole wins fans’ hearts by breaking them.
Hannah Copeland is an announcer and arts contributor at KCUR. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahecopeland.