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Franz Nicolay - Luck and Courage

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 13 / 11 / 2010



Franz Nicolay - Luck and Courage
Label: Decor Records
Format: CD

intro

Delightful Broadway-influenced second solo album from former Hold Steady keyboardist, Franz Nicolay


When it was confirmed that moustachioed keyboardist Franz Nicolay had left the Hold Steady before work began on their most recent album, most questioned how his old band would cope without the glamour his keyboard parts offered and without the entertainment value of his theatrical approach to live shows. In fact, with a slightly more restrained sound, the Hold Steady coped very well allowing them to move subtly on from their archetypal sound. Few were as interested in what Franz Nicolay would get up to. His first 2009 solo album , 'Major General', had been released without anyone paying much attention. ‘Luck and Courage’ suggests that Nicolay wasn’t at odds with the Hold Steady’s musical approach. Like his old bandleader Craig Finn, Nicolay opts to introduce two characters, Felix and Adelita, and tell their stories through the rest of the album. Although Nicolay’s musical reference points here are far wider than the 'Born to Run' piano epics he crafted for his old band, he also happily slips in a few blatant nods to his work on ‘Boys and Girls In America’ as the album unfurls. With just 10 tracks and just over half an hour, this is an understated way for Nicolay to make his case as a talented songwriter in his own right. But his imagination and virtuosity make for an album without a dull moment. At times, the album owes its debt to Broadway, with it being very easy to imagine Nicolay bouncing around a stage in stockings as he sings ‘My Criminal Uncle’. Hold Steady fans will recognise the breakdown and build-up into the chorus, a narrative flourish that Nicolay’s old ringmaster Craig Finn would have been proud of. ‘Have Mercy’ creates a believable Midwest ambience, with crashing cymbals, raucous trumpets and tense violins swirling around a sinister sounding song. At other times, he is content just to produce delightful country-pop, with ‘This Is Not A Pipe’ a charming little ditty sung over banjo and slide guitar. The standout is the opening track, which introduces ’Felix and Adelita’ - a charming slow burner about too seemingly unsuited people trying to fall in love. We already know that Nicolay was capable of musical inspiration. After all, he helped the Hold Steady, a passionate bar room band reliant on a narrow pantheon for their influences, produce one of the outstanding records of the past decade with ‘Boys and Girls in America’. With his cinematic instrumentation, a love of show tunes, a sense of the absurd and a confident palette of American songwriting styles, Franz Nicolay might go from being known as a multi-instrumentalist for hire to taking up the baton of Tom Waits. ‘Luck and Courage’ is a delight.



Track Listing:-
1 Felix & Adelita
2 Have Mercy
3 This Is Not A Pipe
4 My Criminal Uncle
5 Z For Zachariah
6 Job 35:10
7 James Ensor Redeemed
8 Anchorage (New Moon Baby)
9 The Last Words Of Gene Autry
10 Luck & Courage


Label Links:-
http://decorrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Decor-records-135039223266792/
https://twitter.com/decorrecords



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