Nancarrow: Hot Chicken

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
There is a difference between an easy listen and easy listening. Easy listening connotes something that is boring and mundane. Hot Chicken is far from that. This is an easy listen. The music just gets embedded in every cell and really energizes the body. It is twangy and traditional but also very well placed in today’s Americana landscape. There is so much glorious twang on this album. It’s praise worthy just for that. 
This album doesn’t just have a great personality, it has a pretty face. The artwork throughout the album resembles the logo and colors of Hattie B’s, the legendary incendiary fried chicken joint in Nashville. The gate fold and back cover resemble a menu with prices and a dessert section! But don’t worry, this isn’t just a pretty face, the music delivers like an air courier. Anytime, anywhere.
Not only is the singing top shelf, the playing is as well. Vocals and acoustic guitar duties are provided by Graham Nancarrow. Russel Hayden is the wizard on the pedal steel, lap steel, electric guitar and backing vocals. Slapping the shit out of that funky bass is Joe Weisiger. Rounding out this quartet is Ron Kerner on drums and percussion. On the album, Kristen Rodgers provided additional backing vocals while Daniel Ellsworth played piano and keys. 
These fellas hail from sunny San Diego, CA. There is definitely some California in their sound. Laurel Canyon, to be precise. Nancarrow definitely gets the most out of their harmonies and that twangy, spacey guitar that seems to cruise throughout the entire album, laying down some beautiful tunes.
Going through the entire album was a joy, the hard part was trying to pick out some “favorites” to feature in the review. That was quite difficult. I hate choosing. But it must be done.  The Bottom (Track 5) is definitely a standout. Let’s say it is the tallest giant. But all the songs on Hot Chicken are quite large. This song is self explanatory. It’s about, you guessed it, hitting rock bottom. In this case, it is alcohol, but you can really insert addiction here. This song is very sad but so beautiful in its juxtaposition of heart wrenching and uplifting textures. 
As you may know, I am a sucker for a good drinking song and Nancarrow delivers with Technically Legally Blind (Track 2). This is a cautionary tale about not just drinking a little too much, but drinking so much that you can’t see straight. This is how a story wans meant to be told. The music and vocals are wonderful and the words are clever and original. That’s a large accomplishment, considering how many country/Americana songs are about drinking. 
If you like your drinking songs a little more on the speedy side, then you will surely appreciate That’s What Boys Do (Track 9). This definitely reminds me of something that would be performed by those troubadours from Dallas, The Old 97’s. Another great drinking song. This one has a very uptempo, driving drum beat that gives this song some great energy. Then there are the bass parts being slapped around by Joe Weisiger. He keeps up with the drummer beat for beat to really provide the glue for this number. 
I want to add another song to the mix because of the amazing pedal steel work. No Loved Ones (Track 11) is another tear jerker with those heart wrenching pedal steel parts. In a world that is firmly entrenched in pedal steel, the solos on No Loved Ones stands out far above the pack. 
Unfortunately, I got to this too late to be in the running for 2017. Maybe I will start the clock in December so albums such as Hot Chicken don’t get overlooked just because they were released late in the year. Regardless of that, this is one solid album that really screams for a good, honest listen. 
Listen to Hot Chicken
Buy Hot Chicken
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