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Nick Waterhouse | Live at Pappy & Harriet’s: In Person From the High Desert

The Cali singer-guitarist channels the vintage sounds of Ray, Van, Mose & more.

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Van Morrison. Ray Charles. Mose Allison. Georgie Fame. James Hunter. That’s a pretty impressive roster. And now you can add another name to that list: Nick Waterhouse. The California singer-guitarist traffics in the same brand of old-school R&B, soul and jazz — complete with fingerpopping grooves, pulsing Hammond organs, gruff horns and honey-flavoured female backup vocals. Cool, swinging and nostalgic without feeling hokey or ironic, Live at Pappy & Harriet’s is clearly the next best thing to being there. Except you don’t have to worry about the cover or the two-drink minimum. Cheers.

THE PRESS RELEASE: “A decade ago, journalists, fans, critics, and audiophiles alike were wont to compare Nick Waterhouse to his predecessors. And it was a convenient way to categorize an artist that has since proved uncategorizable — he had a voice that balanced somewhere between Van Morrison and Ray Charles, an aesthetic that caught the attention of style reporters at GQ, an ambitious production vision that stood out among the lo-fi rock and alternative bands of the zeitgeist. And he was disarmingly earnest in his own influences — citing artists like Mose Allison and Them as early inspiration. But now, coming off of his searching, intimate, self-titled album of 2019 and bringing us Nick Waterhouse Live at Pappy & Harriet’s: In Person from the High Desert in 2020, it’s clear that comparisons, of any kind, no longer suffice. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it’s resonant in both his own records and his collaborations, rooted both in the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live, eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible. The breadth and pace of his output is also evidence of the fact that however stylishly he may do it, Waterhouse works. Hard. Live at Pappy & Harriet’s came immediately after a long and intense string of European tour dates, which came immediately after a certain reckoning that most musicians encounter at some point, or several points, in their careers: a point where Waterhouse, whose artistry and musicality evokes a blistering energy and drive, was questioning the whole thing — the shows, the exhaustion, the money, the will. It turned out that the excitement and momentum that fueled the 2019 European tour — and Live at Pappy & Harriet’s — reflects the work of an artist who has seen some things. He’s studied, he’s composed, he’s receptive, he’s loose, and he’s gotten to know his own artistic practice in a way that shows up, fiery and raw, on this live, hometown record. Because ultimately, Waterhouse is not simply in dialogue with others. He hasn’t responded to a revived appetite for neo R&B or Ronson-type pop production by altering his vision. He has remained, resoundingly, Nick Waterhouse. Whatever growth, transformations, or nuances a listener can hear are entirely his own story. Waterhouse has built his own sonic world, one whose orbit is totally unique. That sonic world is rich and complex; its language is intelligent, clever, and vulnerable; it’s at once ambitious and intimate, groovy and deeply serious. In fact, the Waterhouse sonic world might look a lot like a glimmering desert sky at dusk, or the damp, overheated air that awaits through the doors of Pappy & Harriet’s. And now we’re invited in.”