Suave as ever, the opening to his second album is High Tiding, a swinging and shifting tune that sees Mr Waterhouse showcase his prowess for that long-lost style of rhythm and blues. Keys and guitar providing the background while rolling drums thump and thud their rhythm to his crooning, this is what music used to sound like.
The second track is a more upbeat effort called This Is a Game, drawing in the saxophone, again an aspect of music that we have been too long without. A more rocking number, but not daring too far outside of the ‘60s pop bracket, this song is something you could easily picture soundtracking a Tarantino or something of that like. A key strength of Nick Waterhouse’s music is the competency of the entire band, a throwback to the time this music is so heavily inspired by, everybody holds their weight and throws in to combine for a sound that is undeniably cool.
Showing a bit more attitude in the sound of the third track, the aptly named It No. 3, this is one that will sit well with mod revivalists all around. Soulful and edgy, it’s a reflection of an American sound that, barring Waterhouse and a few others, largely doesn’t exist anymore – certainly nowhere near the extent it used to. Perhaps that explains why there’s an intensity to these songs, because they do consciously serve as the flagbearers of this tragically depleted genre.
Unlike his debut, this second release, Holly, has a more refined sound, as though a little bit more time has been spent in the studio working at the songs. The vocally accomplished number Let It Come Down is a fine example, the song having such a distinct and crisp sound.
Whereas his debut record had more of a youthful aggression to the guitar playing, Waterhouse’s leading is calmer this time around, as though adjusted for a more adult audience perhaps. He still retains the quality and dexterity that was so clear on 2012’s Time’s All Gone, but on this occasion it’s more restrained and – coming back to this word again – composed.
Title track, Holly, is an understated number that offers a bit more of a relaxed feel than perhaps the earlier half of the album did. Certainly one to sway along to, there’s a quiet importance in the performance of this song, emphasised with the addition of effective brass intervals. If loss and hurt in a relationship was the theme of the debut, I would say that swagger and confidence are the themes of this release. There’s a bit of confidence in the tracks, one that come with time spent refining a craft.
While it’s not necessarily unconventional for this style of music, there is just a bit too much keyboard present on some of the songs, but that comes from knowing how accomplished a guitar player Nick Waterhouse is. Perhaps a sign that the sound is changing a bit more, I’m not sure, but there’s not quite the same fiery passion present in these songs toward the end of the record; it’s a bit more dinner club than dive bar.
The final attempt at gutsy, quick-tempo r&b rocking is Ain’t There Something Money Can’t Buy, but in spite of its bravado sound it still doesn’t quite ignite in the way it should. Not as disappointing an end as you might suspect though, as it does set you up for the surprising finale, Hands On the Clock, a heavy and jazzy track that opens the floor for Nick Waterhouse to spin his lyrics in the nonchalant manner he does.