Review: Gary Nicholson "Texas Songbook"

Home state hero Gary Nicholson has had a long and varied career that has taken him from deep in the heart of Texas all the way to Hollywood, where his work has been featured in movies as diverse as Crazy Heart and Major League. Now, Nicholson is paying tribute to his home state with "Texas Songbook," featuring Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel - along with many more Texan friends.
The album begins with the recent inductee into the Texas Songwriters Hall Of Fame singing the track "Texas Weather." Nicholson's quietly confident vocal delivery never fails to impress, and "Texas Weather" has a memorable melody.

The bluesy "Same Kind Of Crazy" showcases a more passionate side of Nicholson who is joined by Delbert McClinton on harmonica and Red Dirt vocalist Randy Rogers. The melodic "Fallin' & Flyin'" is just good old fashioned fun. Women occupy Gary Nicholson's mind on "Messin' With My Woman" and the next cut "A Woman In Texas, A Woman In Tennessee."

However, the best track on the album is the charming "Listen To Willie," which features a star turn from Texas country star Stoney LaRue and deserves significant radio airplay. "Texas Ruby" is a perfect song for summer, and Nicholson's mischievous side is evident by his cheeky vocal performance on this cut.

Joe Ely and Ray Benson join Nicholson on the terrific "Lone Star Blues" which brings back fond memories of supergroups like The Highwaymen. The retro "Talkin' Texan" offers the best lyrics of the year and will have live audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter.

"Bless 'Em All" featuring the McCrary Sisters is the album's biggest surprise and offers a gospel and blues fusion along with heartfelt lyrics. The final track on the album titled "Somedays You Write The Song" offers an intense - even intimate - performance by Nicholson. In fact, the chorus offers a deeply thoughtful lyric: "Somedays you write the song; somedays the song writes you." Indeed, Nicholson ends the album with a reminder that all of his songs are deeply personal and come from his personal experiences.

Gary Nicholson may have lent some songs to Hollywood, but "Texas Songbook" showcases the extraordinary talent of an accomplished man who has not forgotten his Lone Star roots. From the huge variety of Texan friends who lent their talent to the album to the masterful songwriting on display to the tender lyrics of the final song, Gary Nicholson has created a "Texas Songbook" that we'll all be singing out of for many, many decades to come.