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Blues and soul man Darrell Nulisch has the kind of voice legends are made of – big, strong, and supple, rippling with élan and colored by the dust of his native Texas. It’s a timeless instrument, yet Nulisch keeps it firmly in the present as he wraps the lyrics of his defiant new anthem “You Don’t Know Me” and nine more tunes in its bold tones on his masterful new Just For You. On the surface Nulisch might seem a purveyor of retro sounds, since it’s so easy to compare his elegant delivery to greats like Bobby Bland, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and O.V Wright. But the truth is he and his tight-knit band — which includes longtime songwriting partner and bassist Steve Gomes and guitarist Johnny Moeller — have crafted a fresh hybrid of swamp blues, Memphis soul, Motown pop, and Lone Star State strut on Just For You that infuses those classic forms with bristling energy. It crackles in the organ colored cooker “Let a Woman Be a Woman” and in the sweet melodies Nulisch employs — along with reggae-based guitar and backing vocals, and Motor City-style tambourine — to update fellow Severn artist Lou Pride’s ’70s hit “Work for Love.” And on Slim Harpo’s “Just for You” Nulisch’s harmonica gets to the song’s lonely heart as effectively as his singing, using just a few beautifully chiseled notes to convey deep love and loss. You practically need to force Nulisch to talk about his talents. The Dallas native is a humble guy despite his worldwide concert appearances and multiple Blues Music Awards nominations — including a nod for 2007’s Goin’ Back to Dallas, which was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album. But when Nulisch does discuss his music, it’s clear he’s a natural. “I’ve never thought about phrasing,” he says. “I didn’t even know what it was until somebody asked me about my ‘phrasing.’ I’ve never thought about how I sing other than to enunciate so people can understand the story I’m trying to tell. For me, it’s about storytelling, not trying to blow anybody away with my voice. And if I come across as smooth or elegant, the truth is that I’m just trying to be real.” Meanwhile, the roots of the modern Texas blues scene Nulisch would join were being planted around him.“Jimmie Vaughan’s band the Chessmen played in a nearby park, which was filled with hot rodders washing and waxing their cars on weekends,” he recounts. “And the guitar player in my band was friends with Stevie Vaughan. He came over to jam when he was 14 and he was already as good as he ever was. We knew he was going places.”After Nulisch outgrew playing teen dances he was briefly drawn to folk music and sang in local coffeehouses. That changed when he met Anson Funderburgh, a young guitarist making his name in the scene. “Anson was in a soft-rock band and mutual friends had been trying to get us together,” Nulisch says. “When that finally happened, we clicked fast. Anson’s band had a residency across the street from the bar I was playing in Fort Worth. During his set breaks he’d come over and play blues with me.” Soon they formed Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, and Nulisch sang and played harmonica in the band for seven years. “That was an intense period,” says Nulisch. “I played 200 to 250 dates a year and learned about hard-core blues. Anson really turned me on to a lot of the innovators, like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, who had a big influence on my harmonica playing.” Looking for new musical challenges, Nulisch next teamed with Dallas guitarist Mike Morgan in his band the Crawl. And in 1987 Nulisch raised his profile by joining Ronnie Earl in the ex-Roomful of Blues and -Sugar Ray & the Bluetones six-string virtuoso’s band Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters. After three years and two critically heralded albums fronting the Broadcasters, Nulisch decided it was time to take the reins. “After all that experience I knew the kind of material that suited me best and how I wanted it played,” he says. So Nulisch formed Texas Heat, recorded 1991’s Business As Usual, and hit the road. Although that band lasted just one album, Nulisch’s fertile songwriting with Gomes has continued for six CDs under the singer’s own name.“Steve always seems to write lyrics I really believe in,” Nulisch offers. “He’s also opened me up to different kinds of music, like reggae and jazz, which have influenced my phrasing and my tone.” Between his own gigs and sessions, Nulisch also toured from 2006 to 2008 with James Cotton. “The call to join James came out of the blue,” Nulisch says. “I studied his records when I was a kid, stopping the needle on my stereo and backing it up to learn harp licks. Anson and I played a lot of his songs together, too. And then to share the stage with him — it was an honor. “Truly,” says Nulisch, “when I consider everything I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish, I feel humbled. Today I’m exactly where I want to be: making the music I want to make, which I’m happy to do for the rest of my life.”
Ted Drozdowski

Just For You, Severn CD 0047
Goin' Back To Dallas, Severn CD 0041
Times Like These, Severn CD 0020
I Like It That Way, Severn CD 0007
The Whole Truth, Severn CD 0003

Darrell Nulisch, Bluesoul, Higher Plane HPR511
Darrell Nulisch and Texas Heat, Business as Usual, Black Top BTOP1070
James Cotton, Fire Down Under the Hill, Telarc CD83497
Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, Talk to You by Hand, Black Top BTOP1001
Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, She Knocks Me Out!, Black Top BTOP1022
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Soul Searchin', Black Top BTOP1042
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, Peace of Mind, Black Top BTOP1060
Hubert Sumlin, Healing Feeling, Black Top BTOP1053
David Maxwell, Maximum Blues Piano, Tone Cool TCOO1160
John Campbell, A Man and His Blues, Blue Rock-it 120
Kenny Parker, Raise the Dead, JSP 275
Otis Grand, Perfume and Grime, Sequel Neg CD 282