Fresh Air

Johnny Nicholas is probably best known for the time he spent with Asleep at the Wheel before he left music (in 1980) for 10 years to start a family. I don’t know what it is about Texas—his home for the last four decades—but it’s full of terrific songsters, him among them. An innovative musician (guitar, harmonica) and songwriter (this album features 11 originals and two covers), Nicholas is joined by a slew of people who, except for lap-steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar, are all new to me. “Fresh Air is a collection of stories and melodies that have haunted me for some time,” Nicholas says in the liner notes. As might be expected of someone who’s worked with Johnny Shines and Snooky Pryor (among other famous bluesmen), he’s also steeped in the blues and on songs like his “Bayou Blues,” he hooks up with a swamp siren with predictably disastrous results. Willie Dixon’s “Backdoor Man” features Cashdollar’s steel guitar. And the title track urges us all to get some fresh air—excellent advice!