n i c k     k a n e

Songs In The Key Of E

diamond dogs ! !

Who is this Nick Kanine? Who let him of his leash? Has he gone barking mad?
Is it a dog of an album? Or just a pile of doggeral!  Sorry - had to get all those doggone puns out of the way!!

Nick Kane was The Mavericks' great lead guitarist. The one who provided dynamics to the melodic guitar sounds that are essential to The Mavericks’ rock and roll and rhythm and blues roots. During his 6 years with The Mavericks, Nick injected flare and originality to their music, no matter what style they choose to indulge in! He was also the one who seemed to smile the least, and consequently appeared not to be having as much fun as the rest of the band. But fun he does have, and that fun is translated here into a lively, melodic and thoroughly enjoyable record.

The common denominators of Songs In The Key of E and the music of The Mavericks, is range of musical styles evident, and the knack of openly acknowledging the past, while simultaneously creating a completely contemporary work of art. Never any mean feat.
For the most part instrumental, but suffering absolutely nothing because of it, Songs In The Key Of E is a pleasurable adventure in shimmering musical moods and moments. Nick’s guitars do most of the singing! And his evidently tasteful production and arrangements create a sparkling array of musical gems polished from chunks of rock, rhythm, jazz, blues or whatever else seems to be lying around Nick’s mental attic.

The previous ‘dog’ references are in response to Nick’s choice of song titles, those self penned tunes – half of which have ‘canine’ attributes. Either he really loves dogs, or he has just cleverly employed a mechanism by which to deflect too much concentration on what the song might be about, and let the music itself bark at the listener!

The album opens with a Nick Kane original, Dog Eat Dog. It actually does begin with a few snarling and barking dogs, before Nick kicks in with some basic full frontal guitar riffs, followed closely by a couple of layered lead runs. Nothing clever or showing-off ; just a straight forward and immediate way of drawing the listener’s attention the task at hand! Namely - having a damn fine time! This is followed by Dogfight, a Nick Kane co-write. With an introductory guitar riff borrowing hand-me-downs from Elvis’s ‘Little Sister’, Nick has sufficiently attracted your attention for the main attack. He then assaults you with a variety of fuzz-laden guitar riffs and melodic runs, all draped against the backdrop of a spikey organ and bass backing. Punch drunk from this guitar blitz, he then returns you to the safety of “Little Sister’, before leaving the ring.

Appropriately, Lee Hazelwoods’ Guitars, Guitars, Guitars, follows. It is a fun-time rock-a-billy song, the first featuring the vocals of Kristi Rosa and Kathey Hussey, another clever (and fun) idea by Nick to diffuse any possible expectation that this was going to be just another ‘guitarist’s’ album. Those filled with guitar over-kills and those boring blokey vocals, supposedly disguised as songs! Not Nick! Here the ladies sound like the Andrews Sisters on a day out dressed to the hilt in black leather. Nick’s Chicks (not PC, I know) are refreshingly cool! As is Nick’s guitar playing, bopping along nicely with a nod to Carl Perkins and a wink to Duane Eddy.  Nick is definitely here to have fun, a smile might emerge as his sense of humour is starts to show it's true colours.

Doggish, is speedy rhythm and blues, highlighting Nick's clear and present guitar style, agile but not the clever-clever, “hey ma, look! No-hands” bombastic approach . It features, at times, riffs not too dissimilar to ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’, and a those of early Beatles – but then again who doesn’t borrow occasionally from those wealthy sources.  Into The Fire, from those original  riff-monsters, Deep Purple is next up. Nick hands you the riff directly descendant from the original, but here he serves up a masterstroke. Nick’s Chicks, once again provide the vocals, breathing an attitude into the song that mocks (in the best possible taste of course ) that ‘serious posturing’ that infused the original. Nick is now allowed to cruise freely in and around ‘the riff’ with his wah-wah peddle flat to the floor and arrive safely with his reputation in tact.

Next up, Nick’s very own Panatella is rightfully rescued from the depths of vinyl obscurity (single B-side or Japanese import of Trampoline) and revved up to generate an even greater depth of melodic guitartistry. (sic)  Nick has also thrown on a variety of guitar runs and styles and layered them neatly over the top of some rising ‘Telstar’ style backing vocals. Panatella would make a great theme for that ever evasive, imaginary TV series!

Next up is Beach Party, a short sharp romp reminiscent of those early 60’s guitar bands that according to experts, “would soon go out of flavour”. They never did, and they never will if they keep serving up lashings of ginger guitar licks like these!  The chunky shuffling rhythm and blues of James Brown’s, Joggin’ Along, is next. The emphasis is on the blues, wailing in the glorious BB King groove!  Some cheesy organ work and shuffling drums are the canvas on which Nick’s soulful licks are applied, with impeccable tenor and taste.

Another Nick composition, Lonely Puppy Blues, brings proceedings to a melancholy pause for thought and reflection. Arriving with a ghostly touch of twang, Nick then caresses and bends each note in this slow ‘supernatural’ and moody blues piece that would do the enigmatic Peter Green proud (he of the ‘original’ blues inspired Fleetwood Mac). This sensuous tune would also find it’s way home to any David Lynch movie! Superbly crafted. The tempo is raised once more, for another of Nick’s co-compositions, Tornado Stomp. As the ‘stomping’ name suggests, this tune harks back to those quiff-filled days of the 50’s – days of rock’roll stuffed to the hilt with piano rolls, sax strolls and finger-pickin’ guitar riffs! And make mine a double-malted!

Come on down to funky town with The Dawg, co-written by Nick and Havana Hornist, Scott Huff The song mainly hangs on a somewhat wonderously ‘superstitious’ riff from Nick, with some grinding organ work and shoo-wop vocals from those, by now familiar, Nick’s Chicks. Shafted throughout are Nick’s rhythmic and melodic lead thrusts . Closing proceedings is the gentle rock of Hush Puppy, again written by Nick. Nick gets to show off the more subtle skills of acoustic guitar plucking, accompanied by sultry saxophone. The melody is rather wishy-washy, and the song has the feel of those mid-70’s soapy themes. It is the one track that does sound a tad dated! Hence, it is the only weak point on the album. It’s only saving grace is a bit of good old 60’s phasing on the drums toward the end – possibly suggesting that Hush Puppy was meant to be tongue-in-cheek after all!  With Nick’s hidden sense of humour only beginning to see the light of day, it is really hard to tell!

And that’s all folks’ - a glittering example of understated talent, shining brightly in a world seeming bent on aggression and rage. A diamond in the rough, Songs In The Key Of E is an uplifting record that begs attention to it’s owner. Like the late Mick Ronson, Nick Kane is a consummate musician, producer and artist, placing the passion of the song above all else. Including the temptation to resort to guitar ‘histrionics’; which undoubtably lead to a dull and lifeless experience for the listener.

Songs In The Key Of E, sits comfortably along side any of The Mavericks' work, while retaining the spark of individuality that is it’s creator, Mr Nick Kane! This fun record deserves serious attention. It too is a record for many occasions, from the bed-sit to the summer party (hell, even a winter party).
Go Rover! Fetch it now! And help make Nick smile!

                                                                                                 © 2000 chris swann

 nick kane