Zoe Nutt – Like You
Zoe Nutt’s full length debut, Like You, might be marketed as a release in the new Nashville vein, but her allegiance truly lies with the singer/songwriter genre. The influences shaping these songs, primarily country and blues, are quite obvious, but she never falls squarely into any particular camp. Instead, the eleven songs on Like You move with pleasing fleet-footedness between styles, never betraying a misstep, and sounding cohesive throughout. The musical and lyrical content alike are superb and the production, courtesy of award winning and Grammy nominated producer Travis Wyrick, renders each of the near dozen songs with impressive balance and clarity. There are a couple of covers here, but the vast majority of the album is exclusively penned by Nutt and shows her to be an astonishing songwriter sure to only improve with time and further work.
“Nothing I Can Do” is a minor masterstroke as the opening song. She begins the track singing solo, sans any musical accompaniment, and the naked vulnerability of her vocal immediately draws you inside the song’s experience. Sensitivity isn’t an uncommon thing in the best music, but Nutt amps that up a little bit more than average thanks to her enormously impressive talent for phrasing. These songs are firmly grounded in the familiar, but like the best musical art, Nutt is able to invoke her uniqueness using these familiar “Antique Soda Pop Love” is a brilliantly descriptive title for a musical voyage that may not take long to complete, but is nonetheless a wonderfully imaginative experience. Her cover of Justin Townes Earle’s “Look the Other Way” turns the original into a spectacularly sensual blues moving with deliberation and simmering with white-hot intensity. Nutt and the musicians, instead of taking a bucket of blood approach to the genre, i.e. overplaying all the standard clichés, attack the song with consideration and subtlety. The title song has a beautiful, crystalline edge and Nutt’s evocative vocal is artfully superimposed over the song. The lyrics are among the album’s most personal as Nutt addresses her unborn children without sentimentality. It is quite grounded in reality while still containing profound depth.
“Denial” fixes on finding a perfect balance between Nutt’s voice and warm, well recorded acoustic guitar. This is a patient song, unwinding with great care, and Nutt leads it through with dramatic attention to every line. Like You’s second cover, “I’m On Fire”, revisits an unlikely selection from Bruce Springsteen’s catalog. In Nutt’s hands, this relatively minor hit from The Boss’ 1984 Born in the USA release, becomes a hushed avowal of longing and desire. There’s appealing, ambling gracefulness gently pushing :”Stay” out of the starting blocks to its inevitable conclusion and it elicits Nutt’s most playful vocal on the album. Like You’s penultimate song, “Sweet Tennessee”, is another playful and loving vocal in a song drawn from Nutt’s experience as and pride in being a native Tennessean. This mix of entertaining and deeply personal art makes Like You one of the most satisfying listening experiences to recently come along. Zoe Nutt has made a strong impact with her first album and will only grow from here.
9 out of 10 stars