The Melted Morning, the third studio album by Danni Nicholls released very recently, will be classified under ‘Americana’ which is fine. However, her sumptuous voice that spans the emotional spectrum transcends labels. Nicholls goes straight back to Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, such is her ability to fuse so many musical strands. Having received Americana Music Association UK nominations for awards over the past two years, with The Melted Morning Danni Nicholls deserves to win the award next time.
As with her previous album Nicholls recorded The Melted Morning in Nashville but she considers it a completely new challenge. She certainly picked a top team starting high with producer Jordan Brooke Hamlin (Brandi Carlile, Katie Herzig) and including Annie Clements (Maren Morris, Amos Lee), Larissa Maestro (Margo Price), Kyshona Armstrong, engineer, Gena Johnson (Jason Isbell, John Prine) and background vocals from The Secret Sisters. Commenting on those she had gathered around her Nicholls said, “Working with almost exclusively women for this project felt like the most natural and obvious path, partly out of a desire for a whole new record-making experience and knowing wholeheartedly I wanted to work with Jordan”.
Together they create the perfect setting for Nicholls to express herself both musically and lyrically. She wrote all the songs, some in collaboration with others. While each of The Melted Morning’s eleven songs stands up in its own right, this is an album, a collection, so for maximum enjoyment start at the beginning, sit back and be engulfed by this delicious music.
Opener ‘Wild as the Water’ starts almost imperceptibly, as the gentle piano and acoustic guitar chords give way to Nicholls, “I want your darkness, I want your light/ I want your truth and all that you hide/ Your broken promise, your silent oath/ Your deepest secret..” before soaring to “…your midnight ghosts/ Wild as the water, wild as the night on fire”. It is a lovely introduction to the quality of production and lyric that characterises the whole record.
‘Losing It’ has an even richer production to usher in Nicholls. First time round it sounds almost too much but play it a couple of times and hear how this complex arrangement all fits together so naturally. From a production point of view ‘Frozen’ towers over the album. It is just magnificent, with an orchestration that sends the listener skyward, but never overwhelming Nicholls. Co-written with Ben Glover the song ebbs and flows like waves crashing onto a vast deserted beach.
But with her softer acoustic songs Nicholls properly gets close. ‘Wish I Were Alone’ is a candid reflection of a break up. There is no self-pity, just a recognition that this wasn’t the one and she has to move on. That still doesn’t heal the wounds though, “‘Wish I were alone tonight/ But your ghost is here beside me/Holding on so tight’. Still backed by gently acoustic picking ‘Lemonade’ shows realism with a light wit in dealing with adversity. Another co-write with Ben Glover, ‘Texas’ follows a similar theme of moving on, but where and how? “Looking for an angel that I can call upon”. Nicholls’s voice, delicate guitar and piano just add to the sadness.
Then there are the songs that blend that direct personal communication with bigger arrangements. Nicholls may be from Bedford, but in ’Hear Your Voice’ she sings with raw Memphis soul. You can feel the heat. ‘Ancient Embers’ haunts as Nicholls turns up the pace and emotion. These ashes will smoulder and glower for a long time. The album closes with ‘Hopeless Romantic’, another muse about love and relationships although there is no surprise in the title.
Throughout The Melted Morning Danni Nicholls sings with elegance and dignity. It is a solo album to which she complements an enviable roster of talented collaborators and it should be more than enough to ensure third time lucky in winning an AMA UK award.
You can catch Danni Nicholls performing at our next ‘Nashville Sounds In The Round’ event on May 22nd at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, alongside Holloway Road, Kevin McGuire and Gasoline & Matches!