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Danielle Nicole: Cry No More
by George Graham
(Concord Records As broadcast on WVIA-FM 2/20/2018)
Family bands have been a more or less constant presence on the music scene over the years in various genres, but perhaps a little less common in the blues. Sometimes the bands become a long-running unit, and sometimes, like many other bands, they break up, despite, or perhaps because of the family ties. This week we have a solo artist who used to be with an impressive family blues band. Her new album is also quite impressive. It’s by Danielle Nicole, and it’s called Cry No More.
Danielle Nicole was part of a sibling trio called Tramped Under Foot, based in Kansas City. Then going by her given name Danielle Schnebelen, she worked with her brothers Pat and Kris Schnebelen. In turn they were the children of two performing parents, both singing blues around Kansas City, and their grandmother was a singer in the big band era. At age 16, Danielle Schnebelen started performing professionally, doing lead vocals in her father Robert’s blues band called Little Eva and the Works. Then she formed her own band called Fresh Brew in Kansas City in 1999. Danielle and Kris would occasionally play together, while their other brother Nick was living in Philadelphia. But the siblings decided to form their own band called Trampled Under Foot in 2006, with Nicole learning to play bass in the process, and they soon began to attract attention, winning the 2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. From 2007 to 2013 they released five albums, including Badlands, which we featured in this review series.
In 2015 Danielle returned to a solo career, performing as Danielle Nicole, and has just released her second solo album, since then, Cry No More. That year, she released an album called Wolf Den, recorded in New Orleans. For the new album, Cry No More she worked with some of the same musicians and producer as the last Trampled Under Foot album.
And like the Trampled Under Foot recordings, it’s tasteful, world-class blues-rock and soul. The personnel includes couple of the musicians from Bonnie Raitt’s band, guitarist Johnny Lee Schell and drummer Tony Braunagel. The new album has guest appearances by a number of notable blues guitarists, including Sonny Landreth, Walter Trout, and Kenny Wayne Shepard. Danielle Nicole plays the bass throughout. The material is a mix of originals written or co-written by Danielle Nicole, and some covers, including a Prince song. The vocals are strong, with soulful approach that don’t sound overdone. The styles range from straight blues to Memphis-style soul to more rock-oriented. The band performances are first-rate with none of the generous 14-track hour-long album being anything I would call filler material.
Leading off a strong blues-rocker called Crawl, with Danielle’s brother Nick Schnebelen making a guest appearance. <<>>
The first of the original songs, one she co-wrote with Tony Braunagel, is called I’m Going Home, another energetic piece, which features a guest appearance by Sonny Landreth on slide-style guitar. <<>>
The title track Cry No More goes for the Memphis soul sound, and is, for me, one of the album’s best. <<>>
Taking a rather different direction is the Danielle Nicole original Bobby which is almost folky with it acoustic guitar. <<>>
Another interesting departure is an original called Baby Eyes which sounds like a kind of bluesy cabaret torch song. <<>>
The Prince composition that Danielle Nicole covers is How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore. She and the band give it an interesting and very good reworking. <<>>
The albums includes a vocal duet with Kelly Finnigan, a keyboard man in a band called the Monophonics, and the son of notable rock keyboard man Mike Finnigan, Someday You Might Change the World. It’s another Daneille Nicole/Tony Braunagel original, and strong, soulful performance. <<>>
The album ends with I Just Can’t Keep from Crying an old blues tune by Blind Willie Johnson, with a guest appearance by Luther Dickinson, who played with the Black Crowes, on guitar. It keeps the original direction of the Gospel-influenced rural blues but delivers it an electric context. <<>>
Cry No More, the new release by bassist/vocalist Danielle Nicole, also known as Danielle Schnebelen formerly with the sibling band Trampled Under Foot, is a first-rate soulful blues rock mix that combines her strong, but well-controlled vocals with a tasteful band, and a generous collection of worthwhile songs. With the presence of a couple of Bonnie Raitt’s band members, one can be tempted to draw something of a parallel to Ms.Raitt and it’s not an unfair thing to do, though this record is somewhat rawer and blues directed than Bonnie Raitt, and at least on this album, Danielle Nicole does not to any slow ballads.
Our grade for sound quality it close to an “A” it’s the same team that did the last Trampled Under Foot album, and they give it the same warm, clean sound. The dynamic range, the differences between the loud and the soft, is hardly at an audiophile level but it’s adequate for a blues album.
Trampled Under Foot was an outstanding sibling band. For whatever reason, Daniel Nicole Schnebelen has embarked on a solo career, actually re-established her solo career which she had before Trampled Under Foot. With first-rate musicians joining her on the album, the result is world-class.
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