By Noe Gutierrez

I recently had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Andy T-Nick Nixon Band perform during lunchtime at Record Alley in the Westfield Shopping Center in Palm Desert on a sweltering week day. It was surreal to walk into a record store I had entered hundreds of times before and witness the blues fill the room. The quintet consisted of vocalist Nixon, drummer Jim Klingler, bassist Sam Persons, guitarist Andy T and keyboardist Larry Van Loon. Nixon raves about his blues brothers. “It’s a really wonderful band and they’re good to travel with. We have a lot of fun together.” I can share with you that being an eyewitness to the live music elicited emotion that caused me to pause and take in the sometimes misconceived music genre known as the blues. Nixon’s voice involuntarily extracts your feelings.

James “Nick” Nixon is the quintessential Nashville born and raised bluesman who was thankfully prompted out of retirement by his counterpart Andy “T” Talamantez, to reinvigorate a Memphis Soul, Texas Blues and New Orleans Rhythm & Blues movement just a few years ago. Nixon has always wanted to sing and was influenced early on by gospel music sung in church. “My mother took us to church every Sunday. I used to sit around in church and watch all these people sing and play the tambourine and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.” He was part of the Jefferson Street blues scene of the ‘60s. Nixon has been trained to sing opera also. “I did learn a lot of voice control (singing opera) that I still use now. The clarity of opera is something that I still use, too, but I just put a bit more gravel, a little more dirt with it when I’m singing the blues.”

He is also a skillful guitarist but gladly relinquishes those duties to Andy T for this project. “I really wanted to spend most of my time (in the studio) putting an emphasis on my vocal work … which looks like it’s getting better with age.”

Nixon’s musical past is inundated with rubbing shoulders with Music City greats. He has also congregated with the likes of guitarist Jimi Hendrix and bass guitarist Billy Cox of Band of Gypsies and Jimi Hendrix Experience. He is in his 70s now and after hearing him belt out the blues it is unmistakable that his voice only improves with time.

Nixon has been the recipient of the Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) Award from The Blues Foundation. It is the highest award given in the field of blues education. Nixon taught guitar to children for over 35 years.

Andy T. was born and raised in Southern California. He is influenced by legendary guitarists T-Bone Walker and BB King. He later relocated to Nashville where he met Nixon. Nixon recalls, “I was having a blues jam at the time and I wasn’t that hard to contact. Andy had heard about me and ran into my cousin – the Queen of Nashville Blues – Marion James, and she told him he needed to come see me, so he found me and said, ‘Man, we need to get together.’ So we put this group together and got a bunch of players together that are really good and just took off from there.” In 2013 they released their debut Drink Drank Drunk which solidified their collaboration as more than a ‘one-off’ endeavor. On June 17, 2014, they released their subsequent album Livin’ It Up on Delta Groove Music.

Livin’ It Up was recorded by Texas blues guitarist/producer Anson Funderburgh. The album includes ten original songs and three covers by T-Bone Walker, Alvin Robinson and Delbert McClinton. Highlights are “Love At First Sight” seminal ballad that’s laden with sweet-sounding piano, “Baby Right Now” an up-tempo tune with plenty of saxophone and “Oh Baby” another song with a faster pulse and multiple horns that speaks of lost love. There is a pride in the blues that emits from this album; a pride that explains the ever-increasingly popularity of blues music. Nixon gloriously states, “I’m always proud when I say I’m from Nashville.”

In reminiscing of my time at Record Alley I envision The Andy T – Nick Nixon Band returning to the Coachella Valley and performing at the 3rd Annual Rhythm Wine & Brews Experience on Saturday March 1, 2015 held at the Empire Polo Grounds.