40 years ago the band The NoBS recorded their Davis, California, concert. The tight blues rock band are releasing the album The NoBS Live, 1981 to celebrate that pivotal concert. To hear the banter between songs, the audience shout outs to Skydog (whomever and wherever you are) feels very nostalgic these days. What doesn’t sound vintage, though, are the roaring guitar riffs, those invisible moments where the live stage evokes goose bumps to the listening audience. Filled to the brim with songs – what else would you expect from a live set – there are a few tracks The NoBS are releasing: “Bright Lights, Big City” and “One Woman Man”.
First released in 1961 by Jimmy Reed, the great American blues track was also recorded by country singer Sonny James in 1971. The NoBS version is absolutely solid showmanship. The guitar melts into the harmonica. The drum mix is higher – I felt the kick drum and could almost place myself in that sweaty bar scene, watching the drummer hit the skins. There is a rawness that hangs in the air listening to the song. The vocalist has some moments where his voice is breathy – just as you would expect in a concert. I don’t want a live album to sound perfect; I want it to sound like a band at work and doing their thing. This is definitely the case in “Bright Lights, Big City”.
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“One Woman Man” is not to be confused with the George Jones, John Legend or Dave Hollister songs with the same name. The NoBS song glides along like the perfect time for a slow dance. Just enough fever and percussion are in the mix to keep the heartbeat going, the adrenaline high. But, as you listen to this track in the contact of the live album, it makes sense they would slow things down for just a few minutes in order to ramp things up again. I loved the textures in this song – the way the vocals are wrapped around the bluesy-guitar. I closed my eyes and almost pictured Aaron Neville singing. There are some harmonies happening, but very subtly. Otherwise, the vocals have a gritty sheen that cuts through…slicing through like you would imagine a blues singer possessing. It has the mood of a song like “Tell It Like It Is”. I found myself lingering in the vocals of “One Woman Man” for hours.
The NoBS, are brothers Scott (guitar, bass, harmonica, vocals), David (Guitar, bass, vocals) and Brad Parker (guitar, bass, vocals) as well as Mike Harney on drums. These two tracks are a great gateway to the entire album. With 25 tracks total, there is much to choose from, and believe me, you will be highly engaged with the artistry and the virtuoso instrumentation. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, and maybe it’s sentimentality, but to hear a live concert like this is pure magic these days. Now, imagine, too, if this was on vinyl. My goodness, that would be a treat. Until then, I will take all that I can get of The NoBS. High marks indeed for The NoBS, Live 1981.