Indie Music- Good As Gold Review
The first thing that came to my mind when listening to The Nightowls’ Good as Gold release for the first time was, ‘Man, fans of Bruno Mars are really going to dig this one!’ If you listen to Mars for any amount of time, and especially if you’ve seen him perform live, you know this man is steeped in soul music tradition. However, whereas Mars tends to mix in a little of the old with a whole lot of the new, The Nightowls sound like a band straight out of the glorious R&B past.
The Nightowls are led by Ryan Harkrider, who is also the group’s chief songwriter. The act is also still relatively young, having formed in 2011. Good as Gold is the band’s debut album, which was produced by Jake Langley, who has worked with certified icons, like Roberta Flack and Bobby Blue Bland, in the past.
This recording challenges the listener to play the always-fun game of ‘guess the influences.’ For instance, one can hear a little of the 70s leisure suit soul sounds, such as The Chi-Lites and Stylistics, during “Nice to Know You.” However, its organ-accented arrangement, along with the female vocal backing, also brings vintage 70s Al Green to mind, as well. These are all powerful ingredients, which makes for a mighty tasty recording.
When “One of Those Days” comes along, it’s easy to imagine The Temptations working out their dance moves while the horn section augments their vocals. The organ part, however, may also remind you of the one that powers Beck’s “Where It’s at.” But then again, although Beck may have gone off in the alternative direction, he’s certainly used much as of the same musical source material as The Nightowls.
While “You Don’t Have to Worry (I’ll be there)” has been compared to early The Jackson 5, this is more for its arrangement, which is notable for its funky electric guitar part and vocal-assisted dance groove, rather than its singing. Vocalist Harkrider has a far more mature voice than Michael Jackson had at the time he made those memorable recordings. Even so, the song has an undeniable sense of optimism running through it, which is Jackson 5-ish.
With “I’m Sorry Baby,” The Nightowls go for a good old fashioned apology song. Applying a sound reminiscent of 50s rock & roll – including plenty of horns and piano – Harkrider pours out his soul in repentance for the wrong he’s done his girl. Harkrider sounds equally soul-torn during “Blood Run Cold.” This latter one has a distinctly Otis Redding-like feel, albeit sans the vocal scratchiness so associated with Mr. Redding.
It seems like the more music becomes technologically advanced, the more we find artists reaching back to a time when sounds were much more organic. Why else would Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley be so popular now, especially among the younger set? We may bemoan the intrusion of electronic elements into our pop music, but great, natural singing will never go completely out of style. The Nightowls are living proof that real music, made by real people, will persevere – no matter what. Good as Gold is filled with the good stuff. Think of it as a health food store for your ears.