Album Review of
Western Sun

Written by Joe Ross
May 26, 2020 - 1:59am EDT
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Nell Robinson (mini-flute, piccolo) and Jim Nunally (guitar, banjo) are accomplished musicians with eclectic tastes who have forged a unique signature Americana sound with elements of folk, country, Celtic, bluegrass, world and Gospel. Based in California, the rest of the Nell & Jim Band include Jim Kerwin (upright bass), Alex Aspinall (percussion) and Rob Reich (accordionist, piano, organ, glockenspiel). With an enchanting repertoire of original compositions and creative arrangements, the band’s third album, “Western Sun,” thematically approaches westward migration with stories about people, perils and conflicts encountered by immigrants. The album also provides a foundation to celebrate and embrace diversity.    

“By Stars and Sunrise” opens the project to explain how the western sun warmed settlers’ backs and helped them navigate to the promised land. “The Fire” is a poignant ballad of a homesteading family’s sorrow, heartbreak and grief. Their distinctive instrumental rendition of “Clinch Mountain Backstep” evolves with layers of percussion, bass, flute, banjo and accordion emphasizing the multi-genre influences of their roots-oriented music. The remainder of the diverse set has country duets (“In My Beautiful Dream”), evocative ballads (e.g. “Hurricane” and “Limonaia” and “Handsome Cabin Boy”), lively instrumentals (“Bassfiddle Fanfare”), snappy bluegrass (“Travelin’ the Road West”), Polish folk music (“Poland” and “Periwinkle Wreath, I Had Thee Hung” and “Isaac in Kolomej”) and Gospel (“Woe is Me”). For folks who enjoy a variety of spiritually-tinged music with compelling stories, this tightly crafted album strikes gold. Nell & Jim Band’s “Western Sun” is a fresh, impressionistic album that captures the passionate beauty of contemporary, acoustic music. It’s a strong, compelling set of passion, compassion and emotional impact.   (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)