The Hard Boy Of Blues
Many of us only found out that he existed thanks to Zakk Wylde, who brought him over as the opening act for his Book of Shadows II tour, but he was around for a couple of years before then, with a full portfolio of awards heralding him as one of the great young hopes for the blues. His name is Jared James Nichols, he was born just 22 years ago somewhere in Wisconsin, and they say he could unseat none other than Joe Bonamassa himself. Until that moment arrives, when you hear -and see- him play you know you're in the presence of another great disciple of the maestro Stevie Ray Vaughan.
His life began to shift into high gear after he signed with a major label that saw something special enough in him to release a debut album in the summer of 2015 that combined a reissue of his first steps in the business, a 2013 EP, fleshed out with live material. Sony did right because, as with all first works by a (still to be proven) genius, it reveals a quality that hooks you from the moment you play the first song. A superb calling card for making himself known outside the US before receiving the big promotional push.
Even the title is the same, Old Glory and The Wild Revival, where he declares the love he professes for his inseparable Les Paul and announces what he has in mind to do with it: revive the wild side of the blues. With electricity to burn and, most importantly, believable. The soul of Jared James Nichols comes across through a voice he uses with nearly the same dexterity as the fingers striking his guitar strings.
A Gibson he has 'customized' to his taste with a "1958 body and '68 components" that he took from whatever he could, including a dobro, more from lack of money than consciously looking to create the perfect instrument for revitalizing his favourite genre. His Old Glory only relinquishes its lead role on stage to a Viking V (an affectionate nod to the recently debuted Wylde Audio instruments created by Zakk) when he looks for a really humbucker sound and pays tribute to two of his heroes in passing: Albert King and the recently deceased Lonnie Mack.
Nichols is the king of “hard blues” at the very start of his career, a dual identity that sooner or later will force him to choose which path to follow, whether it leads to showing up on festival bills alongside leading metal bands or in the line-ups featuring his most influential teachers. For right now he moves comfortably between the two camps, providing extra value and lustre to the tours of groups like Lynyrd Skynyrd or, in Spain, with two ‘professors’ of the stature of Glenn Hughes and Zakk Wylde.
Either way, Jared James Nichols will always have a guitar in hand. The saga of Old Glory is just starting.
(Images: © Kenneth Kearney & © Martin Knack from flickr)