I Am Nice
New West Records
As a rule, child prodigies, while being perhaps technically proficient, rarely have anything to say. For every Derek Trucks, who I saw play the most daring and emotional slide guitar – at age 13– you have ten “phenoms” who do nothing but race up and down the guitar neck trying to shred ala Van Halen or play endless pentatonic four note solos in a vain attempt to “play da bluz” like SRV.
Well, meet the exception to the rule, Sammy Brue. At age 15, I Am Nice is his 3rd release (he put out 2 EPs by age 14) and he’s been writing songs since he was 10. Don’t know about you, but I could barely spell my name at that age, much less create anything of worth. And as the 12 cuts contained on his newest release show, Brue shows a maturity beyond his years, while still maintaining a youthful sense of the world. Produced by Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) and John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and recorded in Muscle Shoals country of Florence, Alabama, he sounds completely natural on cuts such as “I Know” or the doo-wop Dion flavored “Was I The Only One”. Brue never tries to mimic, instead letting his steady acoustic guitar and plaintive vocals state his case. “I Never Said” floats in on his understated guitar in tandem with Tanner’s piano before a lovely string arrangement gives his tale of woe – “I never said I didn’t love ya, I said I’m sorry” – a sense of expansiveness and lift.
I Am Nice isn’t all fingerpicked guitar and songs of young love, however. “Control Freak” is a nice, power pop enthused rocker that will have you dancing in your skinny tie, and the albums closer, “Salty Times”, with its downbeat guitar and echoed percussion wouldn’t sound out of place on a Will Oldham record. The whole record feels true and honest – something that performers twice Brue’s age can’t achieve consistently, and it boggles the mind how good he will be in 10 years. But for now, I Am Nice captures a young man’s view of the world, completely unique and heartfelt, and thanks to Tanner and White, aurally pleasing.
When Sammy Brue gets old enough, I’ll buy him a beer. He’s earned it.