Sunday, February 4, 2024

Danielle Nicole: “The Love You Bleed” (2024) CD Review

Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, who goes by Danielle Nicole, is a blues singer and songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri. She was a member of Trampled Under Foot, a band she started with siblings Nick Schnebelen and Kris Schnebelen, and then released her first full-length solo album, Wolf Den, in 2015. In 2018, she released Cry No More, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Her new album, The Love You Bleed, features mostly original material, focusing on the subject of love. In addition to the lead vocals, she plays bass on these tracks. She is joined by Brandon Miller on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, pedal steel, mandolin and backing vocals (Brandon Miller also co-wrote many of the tracks); Damon Parker on organ, piano and synthesizer; Go-Go Ray on drums; Tony Braunagel on percussion; and Stevie Blacke on strings.

The album opens with “Love On My Brain,” a perfect title to kick off an album of songs focusing on love. The song begins by establishing a good beat, and Danielle Nicole delivers the first few lines with just the drums backing her, which has a very cool sound. Then the song kicks in. It’s about how love can affect our entire being. “When I sleep, it’s in a cold sweat/I’m dreaming things that haven’t happened yet/Said it’s love on my brain/Got me feeling this way.” The song is taken to another level when she begins to belt out some of the lyrics. She delivers an impressive and powerful performance. It is a fearless delivery, she is not holding back. Some good guitar work follows, though it perhaps doesn’t quite reach the level of her vocals, though it comes close. Before the end she asks, “Is this a gift or is this a disease?” And then the guitar takes off to that higher level, delivering some great stuff before the song begins to fade out. “Love On My Brain” was written by Danielle Nicole Schnebelen and Brandon Miller.

“Make Love” has a classic, soulful vibe as it begins. On this track, Danielle Nicole offers some of the best advice you’ll receive: “So make love every single day/Make love, push it through the pain/And you’ll see what love can truly mean.” There is something undeniably catchy about this song. It was chosen as the album’s first single, certainly a good choice. It is one of my personal favorites. And speaking of that great classic soul vibe, check out the beginning of “Right By Your Side.” Her vocal performance pulls us right in, and makes us feel she’s been with us right along. That voice, that style, that emotion. “I know if I need you, you’re gonna be right here/There was a time when I watched you walk away/I tell you right now I’ll never make the same mistake.” This track also features some good work on organ, and is another of the album’s highlights. It grows in power as it progresses. Danielle Nicole seems to put everything into her vocal performance here. Hell, I could listen to her just sing the word “baby” all night.

Things turn a little darker with “How Did We Get To Goodbye,” the sound at the beginning like a drive along a lonesome highway. Here she wonders just went wrong, something most people have experienced at one point or another in their lives. “You put on a show/All through the night/You tell me you love me/Then you go turn out the light/But what is revealed/By the morning sun/You walk out the door.” A cool bass line, another strong vocal performance, and a nice acoustic guitar part toward the end all help this track stand out. That’s followed by “Head Down Low,” which soon gets a heavy blues beat going. This one is about a young man setting out on his own, while his mother worries about him, so addresses another aspect of love. This song has a dark, mean edge, and is powerful, with a strong sense of atmosphere. Then in “Fireproof” Danielle Nicole sings, “Way back when we were kids/Happiness was everything/You told me we’re meant to me/Baby, don’t you change a thing.” Ah, but of course things have changed since then. Her voice is fiery here, with attitude, and that guitar backs her up. “Fireproof” was written by Danielle Nicole Schnebelen and Brandon Miller.

The album’s only cover is “A Lover Is Forever,” a song written by Steve Goodman and Fred Knoblach, and recorded by folks like Etta James and Roseanne Cash. Some nice work on acoustic guitar opens this track, and it is just the guitar that backs her voice, setting this song apart from the other tracks. There is passion and ache and resilience in her performance. “Nothing here remains the same/But the way I feel for you/I can watch you walk away/And I know I’ll get by/And I know just what to say/But, honey, I can’t tell a lie.” That’s followed by “Say You’ll Stay,” a slow, beautiful and sad number. “Once we stood side by side/Then everything changed.” Those are simple, yet heartbreaking lines. “So now I find myself just staring at the door/I pretend you rush in with open arms/But I know you won’t.” This track features strings and gorgeous guitar work. Here’s another line that stands out: “I’ll be saving all my tears for you to wipe away.”

“Fool’s Gold” has a great heavy blues vibe and features another strong vocal performance. “You showed me what’s real/How in the hell should I feel?” Her voice has both heart and teeth. She mentions the pandemic in the line, “I know why you really called me when the world shut down.” And check out that work on keys in the middle. “Walk On By” has a solid blues rock sound, and features another powerful vocal performance. There is even attitude as she sings, “You have to let your heart be your guide.” This is a voice of experience, a voice of someone that isn’t taking any crap. “Hear the world cry for peace/But what does it mean?” I love that bass, and that instrumental section in the second half is fantastic. Then “Who He Things You Are” eases in. Check out these opening lines: “Another day has come and gone/He sits and waits for you to call/Time picks at the wound/That love can’t just heal in the blink of an eye.” This song also provides the album with its title in the lines “How the hell is he supposed to feel/The love that you bleed/Is the life that he leads.” This track features an excellent, heartfelt performance. The album concludes with “Young Love On The Hill,” which has a more gentle acoustic sound, and features mandolin and strings. “Driving blind down a highway/Can’t see through the rain and tears/You’re flying homeward bound/Broken hearts can’t make a sound.” It ends with her repeating, “I will remember.”

CD Track List

  1. Love On My Brain
  2. Make Love
  3. Right By Your Side
  4. How Did We Get To Goodbye
  5. Head Down Low
  6. Fireproof
  7. A Lover Is Forever
  8. Say You’ll Stay
  9. Fool’s Gold
  10. Walk On By
  11. Who He Thinks You Are
  12. Young Love On The Hill

The Love You Bleed was released on January 26, 2024 on Forty Below Records.

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