Nick Dakota – Vision
Debut albums don’t always aim as high as Nick Dakota’s Vision and they should. No matter how good you are or anyone thinks you are, the brass ring of commercial success and a lasting career only lands in the laps of those willing to wheel out their best effort every time out. It’s about the songwriting, the singer, the playing, and presentation. It’s about showing the willingness to put in the long hours success requires. Producer Robyn Robins knows that very well and his work on Nick Dakota’s first album reflects that. This a polished collection with well integrated guest spots from a variety of respected Nashville players. The city’s reputation as a hub for great musicians goes far beyond genre and releases like this show that off to exceptional effect.
The first song “We’ll Always Have Paris” refers to the city in Texas instead of the French capital. It’s a good example of the classic songwriting style dominating the bulk of Vision, but it works quite well in capable hands. Dakota understands how orchestrating his voice into an arrangement is important and raises his vocal intensity in lockstep with the song’s emotional swing. “How Cool is That?” is another fantastic example of the first class compositions standing out on Vision. Dakota is a great “narrator” here detailing the appeal of the song’s subject with humor and energy in his voice. He’s the biggest reason why “One Last Request” arguably rates as the album’s most successful ballad because he finds his way so far inside the lyrical content that Nick Dakota, as we’ve heard him on earlier songs, disappears. The greatest singers are, among other things, chameleons. They can disappear into a variety of landscapes, inhabit them fully, and provoke our feelings and imaginations. Dakota, on “One Last Request”, makes you feel every drop of the emotion.
“Fall All Over Again” has a lot of promise, but the lack of a particularly dramatic chorus on an album full of them helps this song stand out negatively. There’s an alternating approach on “The Deep End” filling the verses with tension and releasing it with each chorus. This song has one of the strongest choruses on the album; Dakota’s energy really picks it up and further elevates it. “Used” has an exceptionally strong surge carrying out of its simmering verses into a powerful, roof-raising chorus and Dakota once again shows off his skill for shifting vocal gears. “Too” is one of the rockiest numbers on Vision and is hued with a little more darkness than many of the album’s songs. The rockier vibe continues on the track “Rain Down Sunshine” and gathers further steam thanks to the tense, muscular guitar working alongside Dakota’s voice in the mix. “Sledge Hammer” is one of the album’s more inventive numbers and closes Vision on a high note. In some ways, this is a common enough song – the narrator reflects on the impact a woman’s made on him – but it has an unusual backing performance from the band, full of verve and energy, while Dakota’s vocal sounds excited in a way we haven’t heard in many earlier songs. It’s a song that brings Vision to a conclusion in quite a memorable way while also setting the stage for Nick Dakota’s future.
8 out of 10 stars