Houston native Nathan Quick belts out his bluesy, raspy growl atop lush boogie/roadhouse guitar rhythms and soaring lead guitar. His sound draws from a vast pool of genres including classic rock and roll, blues and contemporary Americana. He is a multi Houston Press Music Awards winning singer/songwriter and looks forward to sharing his stories through sound with you.
The thing about Houston’s music scene is that I feel like we don’t really push the blues sound that our scene was all founded on. Artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins once walked the streets of this city back when the Peacock label was still a thing, and Mance Lipscomb recorded his album Trouble In Mind here. Today, we rarely get many straight blues acts, but rather more blues rock acts instead. While many seem to miss the point behind the genre, one artist here, Houston’s Nathan Quick, has really dug deep to offer up some of those Southern blues tones that we so rarely get to hear anymore. After multiple sold out shows at Mucky Duck and a set at this year’s FPSF, Quick has returned with a new single, "The Sound," and it’s a doozy. On the track, he dances around traditional blues, psych blues, and rock n’ roll to craft a sound that’s a mix of the three and something all his own. Free Press Houston was more than pleased to have the chance to debut the song, found exclusively here.
Starting with a thunderous bass drum that feels like it was recorded in the same hallway that Pixies’ “Bone Machine” was, the guitar squeals and meanders in before Quick adds some harmonica that feels closer to sixties era psych rock. When the slide guitar meets the echoing vocals of Quick’s howl, there’s a deeper connection with Southern blues formed in-between the notes. Utilizing that muddy Rio Grande gargle tone that Billy Gibbons seems to employ, the song has a dark quality filled with Quick’s despair in his reverb tinged vocals, like he’s calling out into the night for an answer. His solo, the mix that includes a thunderous beat, and that twangy harmonica find themselves flickering all over the song like lights that won’t seem to go out.
This song brings Quick’s sound full circle, where he does what he does best, play straightforward blues rock. “The Sound” feels like Nathan Quick at his best as a songwriter and as a recording artist, while adding to his mystique as an artist. You can hear “The Sound” live when Nathan Quick performs at Raven Tower on Saturday August 13th. The all ages show will feature a set from The Beans as well as Otis The Destroyer with tickets between $10 and $12.
Last year, Houston native Nathan Quick released an album, "The Mile." On it, he reminded me of part John Prine, part John Hiatt, and part Elvis Costello. Quick was easily tapping in to the singer songwriter side of his music on the release. This year, he returns with a three song EP, "City Lights," where he sheds that singer songwriter sensation to a more rock meets classic rock emotive. In three songs, Quick does a 180 degree turn on what you thought you knew about his sound; further expanding the realm in which he exists while impressing you on who he is an artist.
Quick doesn’t hesitate to get things started with the Black Keys meets Flat Duo Jets sounding “City Lights.” The song departs from the softer side of things he employed on his last release. There are elements of rockabilly, blues rock, and a hint of that throwback impression. It works, as Quick’s gruff vocals rasp in and out of the track that adds a distorted guitar growl full of tone and the melody of rock’s past. He even takes it further with a hook heavy chorus and a separated solo. He keeps things more on the rock side of things when he ventures into the second song, “Just Hold On.” Quick is definitely channeling more of Bruce Springsteen tone with the way he starts slow, picks up speed, then returns to the slower side on the song. The chorus has dual vocals, and even emotes a more Rolling Stones feel with the groaning solo and falsetto background vocals. This is a definitely different and more bluesy focus to Quick’s previous efforts, and it makes you wonder where this Keith Richards side to him came from.
Things close with the slower paced and almost Ryan Adams feeling “Dusk Til’ Dawn.” It might be the acoustic timber of the opening, but Quick sheds that quickly with a more John Mayer meets Clapton type of chorus. He cuts through that with a blues harp that feels like a second set of vocals. I know that Quick likes tobacco, and maybe that’s where this impassioned and raspy vocal he’s employing is coming from. Wherever its origin, it works for the artist on these three songs with ease. Quick makes you forget his previous works while keeping you impressed with his chops as a performer. The entire EP clocks in at under fifteen minutes, and commands another listen.
It's been just over half a year since Nathan Quick's last offering, The Mile. That album was a jangling, poetic affair that was fun to listen to, but City Lights is a whole different animal. If The Mile was a big dog, then what we have here is a wolf. Honestly, it's more single than EP, with "City Lights " and only two tracks to back it up. That aside, they make a hell of a trio as Quick takes his voice into previously uncharted territory. He sounds like he should be singing over the opening credits of a grindhouse flick about chicks with guns. Comparing his rough crooning wail to an L.A. Woman-era Jim Morrison is just barely an exaggeration, and combined with his road-song approach to everything, it's hypnotic.
"City Lights" also shows off one of my favorite aspects of Quick: He doesn't play guitar solos. Well, he does, but not solos that someone who grew up with a poster of Slash on his wall would call proper guitar solos. Instead they are these shade-throwing bits of aggressive noodling that let you know that while Quick isn't going to bust out a three-minute solo that will blister paint, he totally could if he felt it. The song that's closest to his previous work is "Dusk 'til Dawn." Here's something I've never celebrated in a recording before; I've never heard a snare sound quite like the one here. I had the song blasting in my earbuds as I was doing a bit of housework, and the first pop of the snare I actually took them out because I thought there had been a fender-bender outside or a cat had toppled the TV. It's the backhanded metal clang that goes right through you, lending menace to the comparatively slow track.
Now, I do have to say that Quick probably won't go down in music history as the most inventive lyricist in the world. He spins a fine phrase, don't get me wrong, but his subjects are kind of safe and tropey even if they ooze sin and evil with every step. He's more like the world's best Sam Peckinpah film in song form. It's a comfortable darkness in addition to a danceable one. Nothing sums that up better than the closer, "Just Hold On." It's a largely clichéd collection of observations about feeling adrift and lost, but it's so solidly executed you can't help but dig it. Solid really is the best way I can describe Quick's three-song rolling stone here. It's big and there and unsubtle as it can possibly be. It's also unstoppably fun to listen to, a true Texas citizen of the music scene. You're going to want it on hand the next time you need a soundtrack to get into trouble by.
Last April, local Americana singer-songwriter Nathan Quick was promoting the release of The Mile, a six-track EP that was nearly two years in the making. Three weeks shy of a year later, he has already returned with new material: another EP to precede a full-length album that is planned for sometime in the near future. "Being back home has really helped with being able to write a lot of content and make more music," says Quick, who had just quit the oil-rig business to pursue music full-time when he last spoke with the Press. "I'm able to play my instrument every day, which is amazing," he continues. "I feel like the guitar is an extremity of my being, and it means a lot to be able to work on my craft more."
But returning home hasn't been stress-free for Quick, whose father died in May 2013. Losing his dad further motivated the musician to be the best at what he can do, both as a person and an artist. "Trying to better oneself is an endless journey," Quick says. "I think we all learn and grow every day whether we know it or not." When he last talked with the Press, Quick spoke of wanting to be a better person and feeling closer to who he wants to be and where he wants to go. Reporting on his progress, he says with a laugh, "I'm still working on that part."
A three-track EP, City Lights is short. Despite its brevity, however, it packs quite the punch, featuring the kind of thumping, rock-and-roll-inspired cuts that were absent from Quick's last offering. The Mile was a solid EP in its own right, more focused on lyrical content and containing something of an ethereal vibe throughout. The only thing missing was a bit of grit, but this release more than compensates for that. From the onset of City Lights, Quick and company sound fiercer than anything on their last album. The vocals are coarser, the guitars scratchier and the beats heavier.
In the eponymous opening track, Quick sings of restlessly driving around town late into the evening, likely en route to cause some trouble or perhaps running from his demons. It's the kind of song that makes you want to press the gas pedal down a little farther and chase the beat. Next, "Just Hold On" begins with a riff that would sound right at home on a classic-rock album, perhaps a KISS or Guns N' Roses record, with ghostly vocals mirroring Quick's lyrics throughout the verses and harmonizing on the choruses. And if Justified weren't already wrapping up its final season, I would expect "Dusk Til Dawn" to find its way into the show's soundtrack. Eerie guitar picking and ominous percussion underwrite a distorted harmonica that wails in the background like an oncoming train as Quick sings of trudging along.
And that's how City Lights ends, with the promise to continue on, perhaps as a wry commentary on the state of his celebrity or lack thereof in the local music scene, depending on whom you ask. Quick has found his sound, of this much he sounds certain. Fans who will be eagerly awaiting his full-length album now have a few new tunes to tide them over, and they might just be Quick's best work to date, which should excite longtime listeners and attract him even more fans.