Nick Dakota – Vision
Vision is the first album from Nick Dakota, a Michigan bred singer and musician with talent and technique to burn. There’s twelve songs on the album that explore a variety of styles and even some surprises. Dakota has a rocker’s heart beating through some of the songs, but his ability to get inside the album’s more traditionally written and recorded numbers show the sort of talent that many of his peers lack. Producer Robyn Robins has pulled in a number of top drawer songwriters and players to assist Dakota in realizing his potential, among them Tim McGraw’s long time guitarist Troy Lancaster and famed pedal steel player Steve Hinson. These sort of heavy hitters make sure that, if nothing else, Vision is an entertaining listening experience, but there’s substantial depth to be found as well.
Sometimes the depths are subtle. There’s quite a bit of intelligence behind songs like the opener “We’ll Always Have Paris (Texas)” that goes far beyond just chronicling a personal or fictional experience for the audience. The material on Vision knows what it takes to get under a listener’s skin and the songwriting is explicitly tailored to that end on songs like this. There’s some lovely piano playing running as an undercurrent on the track “How Much I Love You” and Dakota shows a firm grasp on how to best integrate his voice into the musical arrangement in such a way it strengthens both elements. This technique is in play on the album’s first single “How Cool Is That”, a wonderfully clever love song that turns formula on its end and celebrates how extraordinarily grounded the singer’s love interest is instead of idealizing the subject with familiar platitudes. “One Last Request” fluidly shifts into a slower ballad gear and neither the musicians nor Dakota sound like the move troubles them in the slightest. Dakota, in particular, delivers a very affecting and convincing vocal.
“Used” has a lot of bite, both musically and lyrically, that we haven’t heard until now at this point, but it’s never so aggressive as to repel the listener in anyway. Even at its most intense, Vision wants to bring its audience deeper and deeper into its own world rather than repelling them with bitterness and unpleasantness. “Past You and Me” is the album’s second ballad and, arguably, not as effective as the first, but it is still quite a serviceable song and the traditional country touches will make it all the more appealing for a vast portion of his audience. “Rain Down Sunshine” is a thrilling country rock track with doubled acoustic and electric guitar that runs just the right amount of time and will certainly bring audiences to their feet. “Heart on Fire”, the album’s penultimate tune, has a similar spirit, but less cluttered instrumentation and the album ends with a spirited track entitled “Sledge Hammer” that has a vocal filled with fun and crackling verve. Vision has something for everyone who loves classic and modern country music without ever trying to do too much or losing its way.
8 out of 10 stars