There is one thing you can say about Nelson King, he’s no slouch when it comes to musical output. It seems that no sooner have the last notes of his trademark scuzzed-up and sleazy garage blues faded on the wind than a new collection arrives demanding attention. And just when I think that I have got the man’s style pinned down, a sort of white-boy R&B reminiscent of the late sixties Stones, he throws us a curve ball. Well, a few really.
But I shouldn’t be surprised because where there is blues, soul isn’t far behind and Fly (With Me) is our hero doing to that genre what he has already done to blues and rock ‘n’ roll, kicking it around the yard, then beating the dents out and wiping it over with an oily rag. And Fly (With Me) is brilliant because of such treatment and comes at you like the sound of Detroit Soul meeting the West London blues explosion for some naughtiness in a back alley.
See, a curve ball. And then he just keeps lobbing them. Hey Babe is a skittering slice of wasted psychedelia, Word To The Wise is a sumptuous and textured ballad in the style of our lord Nikki Sudden and We Will Overcome is as louche and purposefully lazy as it gets.
Ironically it is the album’s lead single, Last Man Standing, which takes the easiest route. Captivating dynamics are built from the simple yet effective jump from gentle guitar picking to hitting the big chorus chords. Not only the sort of song he does so well, he does it much better than most.
The charm of Larger Than Life and indeed Nelson King’s music in general is that whilst his songs are based around a fairly straightforward if slightly battered bluesy rock sound, the sort of sonic vehicle that people have been driving around the downtown streets since the 60’s it is what he bolts on to it that counts. Emotive soul, singer-songwriter balladry, pop infectiousness, rock edge, wasted elegance, raw emotion and more beside. It is that combination of familiarity and exploration that keeps him one step ahead of the pack.