Review: Andy T Nick Nixon Band - Drink Drank Drunk featuring Anson Funderburgh

An excellent debut that meets every expectation
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There it is, right on the cover - 'featuring Anson Funderburgh.' Given that the lanky and laconic Texas guitarist also produced and plays on a handful of tracks, the debut from the Andy T - Nick Nixon Band arrives with high expectations.

Fortunately, Drink Drank Drunk delivers, and then some.

Andy Talamantez met Funderburgh first, the two becoming fast friends as their paths crossed through the years. Following extended stints with Smokey Wilson and Guitar Shorty, the California native moved to Nashville, where initially casual gigs with Nick Nixon soon evolved into an enduring musical partnership.

Funderburgh must have experienced a whiff of déjà vu with this one - he himself rose to prominence via a partnership with the late, great Sam Meyers. And the resemblances are more than just superficial - Andy T's guitar tone is similarly lean and clean, and he phrases with equally exquisite economy. And Nick Nixon's vocals echo Meyers' genial yet commanding authority, though his approach leans as much to soul as it does blues.

The collection consists primarily of covers - there are four originals among the twelve tracks - and there's a rather large cast involved, with some sixteen participants listed in the credits. Yet there's a cohesiveness to proceedings, and the sound is that of a band - albeit an augmented one - rather than a pre-fabricated project.

The fare is familiar enough - "Midnight Hour Blues" and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "Don't Touch Me," "Hi Heeled Sneakers" and Paul Gayten's "No Use Knockin,'" and an interesting cover of Ray Charles' immortal "I Got A Woman" driven by Christian Dozzler's accordion, giving the tune a Tex-Mex feel that works surprisingly well. The accordion is also put to use on Talamantez' own "Have You Seen My Monkey," though in both cases it's rather rudimentary - Dozzler is first and foremost a pianist, contributing keys to most of the other tracks (he's relieved on a couple by Kevin McKendree).

Brian 'Hash Brown' Calway is responsible for the only harmonica on the disc, his squalling tone and piercing high-end blasts providing the perfect punctuation for the hard-grinding "You Look So Good To Me," Nixon's sole songwriting credit. Talamantez adds the slinky instrumental, "Dos Danos," as well as the uptown-funky "On My Way To Texas."

The title track, courtesy of Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson, is just what one would expect, a raucous and rowdy celebration of inebriation, while both "No End To The Blues" and "Life Is Too Short" are standard twelve-bar numbers that give Talamantez a chance to showcase his considerable skills.

Apart from the accordion - a nice and relatively unusual touch - there aren't any real surprises here, unless it's simply how good it all sounds. As producer, Funderburgh ensures that nothing gets to slick or polished - it's territory he knows well, not far removed from his Black Top recordings with Meyers. Performances are all first-rate but retain a first-take vitality, favoring concise expression rather than instrumental indulgence. And Nixon is a revelation, his soulful rasp enhancing the emotional impact of every line he delivers.

A stellar debut, here's hoping Drink Drank Drunk is, to borrow a bit of Bogie's closing line from Casablanca, "the start of a beautiful friendship." Highly recommended!