The stylistic demarcation zone between blues and soul music has long been an elusive one to define. On The Whole Truth, his latest album for the newly formed Severn Records, Texas singer Darrell Nulisch offers a devastatingly effective solution: he sings the hell out of both genres, resulting in his hottest recording to date.
Now based in Boston, Nulisch brought a portfolio of soul-streaked originals ("There It Is," "Stop Thinking Take [Start Thinking Give]," "One Night Lover," and three more, all co-written with his longtime bassist Steve Gomes) and a fistful of well-chosen covers (George "Harmonica" Smith's "Telephone Blues," Percy Sledge's "Love Me Like You Mean It," Roy C's "Leaving On The Morning Train," Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "There's A Sad Story Here") into the studio, emerging with an album that runs the gamut of human emotions: love, heartache, sorrow, joy. In toto, The Whole Truth. A prolific songwriter, Nulisch has penned songs for artists such as Maria Muldar & Buckwheat Zyedeco.
Along with Gomes, Nulisch's backing crew included young guitarist Jon Moeller (like Gomes, a veteran of Nulisch's former band Texas Heat, which cut the critically acclaimed album (Business As Usual for Black Top), drummer Robb Stupka (a former timekeeper for the late Luther Allison), keyboardist Benjie Porecki (soon to have his own CD on Severn, Serving It Up), and the D.C. Horns. In addition to singing, Darrell displays his talent as a harmonica player on several selections on The Whole Truth.
Nulisch spent a lot of last year on the road as guest vocalist with Grammy-winning Chicago blues harmonica legend James Cotton. He's recorded vocals for ex-Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Boston pianist David Maxwell, and Detroit guitarist Kenny Parker. But his roots lie squarely in Lone Star soil.
Darrell grew up in Dallas, surrounded by blues and soul music. When his grandparents threw house parties, one of their turntable favorites was Jimmy McCracklin's shuffling "The Walk." "My dad and mom used to take me to these honky tonks sometimes, when there would be live bands on Sunday afternoons," recalls Darrell, whose neighbor Jimmie Vaughan was then just getting his feet wet on guitar. "One of his first bands, the Chessmen, they used to practice down in the park about three blocks from my house. I would ride my bicycle down and watch those guys play.
"Freddie King was always one of my favorites. He had such an authoritative way of delivery. He just mesmerized me," says Nulisch. "After I was in my teenage years in high school, he used to play around Dallas a lot, and Austin too. We used to take road trips when I was in high school down to Austin, and go to the Armadillo World Headquarters."
Darrell began singing full-time in 1978 as one of the founding members of Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, who cut the first album in the catalog of New Orleans-based Black Top Records, 1980's Talk \To You By Hand. He spent seven years as front man for guitarist extraordinaire Funderburgh and the Rockets, touring extensively and waxing an encore for Black Top (She Knocks Me Out!) before exiting.
After a year with Mike Morgan & the Crawl, Nulisch joined forces with Boston-based Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters (renowned harpist Jerry Portnoy was also a featured member) in 1987, cutting two albums as their vocalist for Black Top (Soul Searchin' and Peace Of Mind) and touring Europe before leaving in 1990 to do his own thing with Texas Heat. His last CD, Bluesoul, emerged under his own name on Higher Plane Records.
Nulisch has been categorized as a "blue-eyed soul" singer, but the overused term isn't too accurate. "People say that all the time. I'm not particularly fond of that," he says. "I never thought about whether these cats were black or white, or any of that. It never was a concern. I just liked the music. I can't help what I like, and the stuff I like happens to be black music."
Darrell is tremendously pleased with his new Severn release. "I feel like this one paid off," he says. "We really put a lot of time and effort into it. I finally got what I wanted."
And that's The Whole Truth.
I would like to express thanks to all the beautiful musicians who worked so hard on this project. A special thanks to Chris Rival at My Generation. Most of all, thanks to David Earl and Severn Records for the vision and dedication to making the best possible products. Thanks Dave – without you none of this would have happened. - Darrell
Darrell Nulisch: Vocals, Harmonica Jon Moeller: Guitar Benjie Porecki: Keyboards Steve Gomes: Bass Robb Stupka: Drums
Additional Musicians: Ricardo Monzon: Percussion
DC Horns: Michael Fitzhugh: Trumpet Eric McMillan: Trumpet Douglas Gilchrist: Trombone Jacques Johnson: Tenor Saxophone
Backup Vocalists: Marjorie Clark Deirdre Wright Natalie Jackson
Additional Guitar on "Like Reed": David Earl
Producers: Darrell Nulisch, Steve Gomes, and David Earl Executive Producer: David Earl Recorded and Mixed by Chris Rival at My Generation Studios, Somerville, MA Mastered by Charlie Pilzer at Air Show, Inc., Springfield, VA Horns Arranged and Directed by Adolph Wright Ricardo Monzon plays LP® Percussion