Aleric Nez needs no accompaniment
In this age of increasingly affordable technology [this originally ran in fall 2010], anybody can have a band. That’s no secret. For any songwriter, the urge can be great to add in that string section, that trumpet piece, that bit of backing vocal that’s so easy to hear right at the edge of consciousness.
And so it is interesting when a guy like Vince Nez, who plays all kinds of instruments, chooses to record an album like his debut Aleric Nez (also the name he’s performing under) that uses virtually none of today’s recording techniques. Much of the nine songs over 33 minutes seems like nothing more than Nez singing and playing his resonator guitar in front of your standard Sure SM-58.
Nez manages to evince passion at its most base level, laying it all out on the line. The recording is as naked as the emotion — often there isn’t even a touch of reverb to warm the guitar and vocals. It hard not to sound horrible when you’re recorded in such a raw fashion, with only the room and the floor and the atmosphere to act as a buffer between you and the diaphragm that makes up the microphone, but Nez sounds anything but.
It shouldn’t be surprising that it was recorded at Dave Noyes and Pat Corrigan’s Apohadion, which is just as unadorned with pretension.
When Nez opens the disc with Neville Livingston’s “Dreamland,” it is almost impossibly pretty, the resonator’s sweet finger-picked melody like a too bright light, like bells that ring to break glass. His voice is wobbly, elegant in its not-quite-rightness. And the tape hiss makes it all seem 50 years old: “We’ll count the stars in the sky/ And surely will never die.”
Like a Nick Drake album, there is a timelessness to this, surely, replacing that Drake dreamlike quality with an abrasive smirk, Drake’s crystalline falsetto with something more like a cry of pain. “She said you can’t run from me,” he sings in “Witch,” “She said you cannot fight.”
Nez definitely shares an aesthetic with Micah Blue Smaldone, as well, though he doesn’t here get into any of the real fast-paced fingerpicking that Smaldone can bust out. Nor is his voice quite so imbued with wobble and lurch. Same kind of vibe, though, like he’s playing anywhere but in modern-day civilization.
Except that the crooning “Daydreamin’” stands up with anything Bon Iver’s doing, just without all the layers; and “My Yuselda,” done electric like a pedal steel, is not dissimilar to M. Ward’s “Roller Coaster,” just more stripped down — more stripped down than anyone really. Very few solo artists go quite this solo. It’s like Jack Johnson for kids who can’t surf and wear cut-off jeans and who burn pretty easily.
Nez also sounds at times just a little bit crazy, which adds to the album’s allure.
Probably the best track is the short catchy almost-rocker “Butter,” where Nez is like a circus ringleader: “Take the edge from your voice, my dear/ There’s no reason to use it here … save it for someone who actually threatens you.”
Just as he sings on the Hank Williams cover the closes the disc, Nez is a “Ramblin’ Man,” a loner, but you sure hope he takes a swing through your town.