Artist: Joe Nichols
Album: Never Gets Old: Traditional Country Series
Label: Broken Bow Records
Genre: Traditional Country
If there were ever a voice that was made for a traditional style of country music, it’s Joe Nichols. Never Gets Old: Traditional Country Series is the Joe Nichols project I’ve been waiting for. I knew the moment his cover of Don Williams’ “Good Ole Boys” dropped that there was some kind of a classics album to follow. The excitement continued each month as the songs were released leading up to the full EP that dropped on August 31st of this year. The project was initially intended to be a four song EP as a gift to his wife, Heather, for their tenth anniversary, but it turned into something bigger once in the studio.
If traditional country is what you’re looking for, traditional country is exactly what you’ll find with the Never Gets Old: Traditional Country Series EP. Interlaced within the tracks are the sounds of fiddle licks and steel guitars, each song taking it’s time to touch you where today’s country songs often don’t, before moving onto the next. Nichols tenderly recorded each track in his familiar baritone in a graceful and respectful tribute to both his heroes, his wife, and his childhood. In his own words on his youtube channel in a series of behind the scenes videos he speaks about each song and what they mean to him.
The opening track, “Good Ole Boys,” an old Don Williams song that is near and dear to my heart, brings forth not only the imagery of the lyrics themselves, but the warmth from the bodies of twenty-odd people packed into a living and dining room like sardines after a warm meal with guitars, smiles, and songs. Specifically this song, led and played by my uncle, accompanied on guitar by a cousin, and sung by the lot of us. For Nichols it seems to also touch on a similar feelings of nostalgia. “I wanted to include this on this Never Gets Old: Country Traditional Series because it reminds me of my childhood. This song is very special to me, and very special to my wife, and one of the first songs I wanted to cut as not only a tribute to Don Williams, but to her.”
Much like the song before it, “The Rose is For Today” brings forward those same feelings of nostalgia. Not for the song itself, but for the era. “The Rose is For Today” is a song I first heard a long time ago, maybe when I first came to Nashville. It’s an old Charlie Pride song and when I heard it I immediately thought of my long time sweetheart and eventual wife, Heather. I wanted to include it with this project because it’s a special song to me, and a special song to my relationship, and it takes me back to when I had nothing going for me and I wanted one day to give her something special.” Nichols remarks in another behind the scenes video.
“Sing Me Back Home” is one of my favourite Merle Haggard songs mostly because the lyric is so heavy and so powerful. I think this song kinda takes you back, to me it takes me back to listening to Merle as a kid not really understanding the power of these type of lyrics, but it did help me understand a lot of emotion on songs. The production on this is just right. We slowed it down to like a death march.” He’s right about that, the production and the lyrics play off each other flawlessly, turning the already fantastic ballad into an ominous carol. “There’s No Gettin’ Over Me” is a Ronnie Milsap masterpiece.” Nichols says. “I remember the groove when I was a kid being so simple yet so cool, the harmony of the song was so neat, Ronnie’s annunciation was even noticeable, and of course [his] laser beam pitch. It’s just a very simple song, but extremely hard to fit in the pocket just right to make it cool like he did.” He managed to do it though, adding that authentic country swagger that only Joe Nichols can.
“Ten Feet Away” was not the obvious Keith Whitley song to cover, but Nichols wanted to do something that he remembered dancing to when he’d go to a little bar on a Sunday that they’d let the teenagers into. For me, personally, with Keith Whitley being one of my absolute favourite singers, it’s so special to see that he brought forth that same emotion that Whitley was so good at conveying in all of his songs. “I used to jam to this all the time in my little chevy cavalier.” Nichols laughed.
He closed the album with the classic George Jones hit, “Choices,” a personal favourite of mine from Jones’ discography. Much like Nichols, I also “love his voice, I love what he did for country music, and I love his story.” You won’t many like No Show Jones nowadays, he’s a legend right down to the very sense of the word. It’s important to keep passing these songs down through the generations, and having no intentions of straying from the original works, only pay tribute to the geniuses behind them Nichols has done this incredibly well. It’s certainly an EP worth listening to, if not for the artistry in recording and producing them, but for the songs themselves.