Nichols & Phillips “Three Fools”

Jeb Loy's Yard, 2023

An album which fans of the lighter end of the americana spectrum will enjoy immensely.

This album was recorded in Wales but you would be forgiven if you thought it was recorded in sunny California. It’s a stripped-back 12-track album that fans of the lighter end of the americana spectrum will enjoy immensely. Jeb Loy Nicholls’s singing is quite mellow, sincere and husky which suits the pleasant in sound and very 70’s influenced songs. If you want your americana to have a little bit more grit then this may not be your cup of tea. Clovis Phillips is a cracking musician. Guitars, bass, mandolin and Wurlitzer are all played by him. It has very understated playing throughout but it is tastefully done. Nichols and Phillips’ collaboration is one fused by their friendship.

‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend’ wears its Cat Stevens influence prominently on its sleeve. It is the only non-original song on the album having been written by Donnie Fritts (who passed away in 2019 and who had been Kris Kristofferson’s keyboard player for over 40 years). The remaining songs are written by Nichols.

‘Wintering of the Year’ is a stand-out. Waltzy, jazzy, with lovely harmonies, beautiful guitar, and reminiscent of John Martyn or James Taylor (circa his ‘One Man Dog’ album). ‘Number 4’ describes what Nichols may do on one of his days – “Sit watching the clouds rolling in and I watch them rolling away.” With its low-key Latin beat it has some immaculately played Ry Cooper like guitar fills by Clover. ‘Let Me Love You in My Way’ is a simple but effective confessional love song that lists the things Nichols will do to get things right.

Drawing from their love of bluegrass, country, and Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters there is nothing here that probably has not been heard before but that doesn’t diminish the quality of the songs and playing. Some of the repeated lines would have benefited from different lyrics to stop some of the repetition. ‘Rain falling on the roof at night‘ springs to mind, pardon the pun,  but that’s a subjective point and catchy choruses rely on this kind of repetition so it’s an artistic balance.

Overall, a pleasant album which, with repeated plays, is recommended to be taken on a summer vacation especially if you have sun, a pool, and a long drink handy.

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