Nick Dakota – Vision
This is the perfect album to make when you’re thirty years old. Nick Dakota’s first album Vision is going to appeal to people who’ve seen some life’s hard knocks, but still retain their youthful zest for every day and haven’t lost their sense of adventure. There’s some settled sounds on this album, some things still in flux. Love is still in the cards and Nick Dakota, like much of his target audience, is still interested in having a good time. Those listeners will find it on this Robyn Robins produced collection. The sleek, detailed presentation of these uncluttered tunes relies on the eternal verities to get over with its audience – direct lyrics, heartfelt vocals, straight-forward instrumentation, and a sharply honed sense of what country music fans want and don’t want. There is a commercial side to this album, but it never works to cheap effect. The dozen songs on Vision own their keep and deserve your undivided attention.
“We’ll Always Have Paris” is perfectly orchestrated pop country with a light lyrical twist that’s classic within the genre. The emotion expressed within the song finds a perfect interpreter in Nick Dakota. He captures all of the affection and regret necessary for bringing this song off and never lets the song lapse into melodramatic sentimentality. The restraint and stylishness shown on this album is often quite admirable. In the hands of a different performer and producer, “How Much I Love You” would have come off as a much more clichéd affair, but Dakota redeems it with his earnest vocal and there are a number of turns built into the arrangement emphasizing the song’s dramatic qualities. The highlight for many listeners, however, will likely “How Cool Is That?”, a tender litany of the virtues of an unpretentious woman. We don’t often hear songs like this from modern country music performers and Dakota pulls it off with an added bit of panache that makes it a definite high point on Vision. “One Last Request” is much more in a traditional classic country vein than the preceding songs, primarily thanks to the lonesome whine of steel guitar underscoring some of the vocals. It’s an elegantly wrought ballad that Dakota invests with thoughtful singing.
The big slide guitar snaking its way through “The Deep End” gives it some mud-soaked grittiness it might otherwise lack and helps bolster an already memorable chorus. This is another of the more finely crafted tracks on Vision. “Past You and Me” gives the pedal steel another chance to weave its melancholy magic in a classic country way and it matches up good with the tone and feel Dakota takes on here. “Heart On Fire” has a slowly ascending chorus that peaks in a memorable way, but Dakota never pushes too hard on the song and his stylish approach complements it. He finishes Vision off with “Sledge Hammer”; don’t mistake this for a countrified cover of the Peter Gabriel eighties classic. Instead, it’s one of the most idiosyncratic tracks on the album and shows Nick Dakota is comfortable with occasionally surprising his audience. It’s an unique hybrid of a modern pop sound with traditional instruments. This sort of ending shows another side of his talents and also hints at the future – this is a performer who wants to succeed, but he’s never constrained by expectations.
9 out of 10 stars