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Sheila Nicholls


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Strong piano-based balladery and story-telling (alternative pop/rock with folk touches)

Status:

Most recent release, Songs from the Bardo (2009)

See also:

Sheila Nicholls' site

Comparisons:

At first I thought Sarah Slean (because of the piano playing style) without the Tori Amos influences. I've heard Ani Difranco mentioned, but I don't hear it, although, like Ani, Sheila is a storyteller and not afraid of intensity in her music and her subject matter. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Tori and Fiona meet Ani DiFranco. (deziner@cris.com)

Covers/own material:

Own, some co-written

General comments:

A fresh, original voice. I can't really think of anyone to compare her to, and it's even hard to come up with a good reference point. It's not that she's totally different, but she definitely stakes out her own place with what she does. Brief Strop is a definite 5 star album and would have been in my top 10 for 1999 if I hadn't waited til 2000 to buy it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Comments about live performance:

I have heard Sheila Nicholls live, and she is really good. Sheila is English, and she is excellent. She's an original; I can't think of anyone to liken her music to. She sings to her own accompaniment on electric piano, plus that of accompanists on acoustic guitar and cello. She did some excellent songs on relationships, homelessness, consumerism, and other things. I recommend her enthusiastically. (11/99, mapravat@prairienet.org)

Recommended first album:

Brief Strop

Recordings:


Brief Strop

Release info:

1999—Hollywood Records—HR622322

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Nicholls—piano, vocal, hammer dulcimer

Guest artists:

James Harrah—guitar, bass, hammer dulcimer
Cameron Stone and Hope Easton—cello
Luis Conte—percussion
David Pilch—stand up bass
Eldad Tarmu—vibes
Dave Stringer—harmonium

Produced by:

Sheila Nicholls and James Harrah

Comments:

They're playing her song "Fallen For You" on my college station here (incessantly), and god I love it. It's been a while I've gotten this excited about a song I've heard on the radio. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

It's a great discovery :)
     I described her to a friend once as Tori and Fiona meet Ani DiFranco. Her lyrics are witty and edgy, and her piano playing is almost as beautiful as Fiona's and as powerful as Tori's.
     Definitely get the album. :) (deziner@cris.com)

I actually find "Fallen For You" the weakest song on the album, and it's still a pretty good song. The others are all excellent. I am positively addicted to the first two tracks, "Question" and "Elevator." And I love "Peanuts" (probably the most musically adventurous track) and the feminist "Medusa." Highly, highly recommended. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I really like a few of the songs a lot ("Elevator"—my favorite, "Question", "Medusa", etc) and especially like the tracks where there's cello/guitar/other things besides piano...her piano stuff is cool, though. I also really like her voice. I will say that about 1/2 way through the album I get really bored at the sort of repetitiveness of it all.... Her writing style is very original, clever songs, interesting, and just slightly reminiscent of Ani at times.... (Songbird22@aol.com)

This is indeed stroppy kinda angry/wise woman-yelling/yearning at the world. I like her lyrics, too, except when she waxes too didactic (only in a couple of the songs). Pop/rock. Highly recommended, though I'm not sure it's something I'll listen to forever. (Neile)

I pulled out my copy of the brilliant Brief Strop and remembered how much I love Sheila and this cd. (RocketsTail@aol.com)


Wake

Release info:

2002—Hollywood Records—2061-62240-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Nicholls—vocals, piano, Rhodes

Guest artists:

Glen Ballard—guitars, keyboards, programming, arrangements
Matt Chamberlain, Brian MacLeod—drums
Mike Elizondo—bass
Michael Landau—guitars
Walter Miranda—additional piano
Dean Parks—mandolin
Jakko M. Jakszyk—guitars, piano (on middle eight), additional keyboards, Dudak, programming, string arrangements, additional acoustic guitars and background vocals on "Love Song"
Gavin Harrison—drums, percussion, tabla
John Giblin—fretless bass
Richard Barbieri—synthesizers
Jackie Norrie, Brian Wright, Jackie Brand, Alan Grunfeld, Tammy Hatwan, Karen Jones, Natalie Leggett, Katia Popov, Marc Sazer, Josefina Vergara, Ken Yerke—violin
Helen Kamminga, Lucy Theo, Melinda Pinder, Roland Kato, Carole Castillo, Darrin McCann, John Scanlon—viola
Caroline Lavelle, Cameron Stone, Rebecca Yeh, Steve Erdody, Tim Landauer, Tina Soule, Cecilia Tsan—cello
Danny Thompson—double bass
Brian Kilgore, Alfred Ortiz, Justin "Niño" Porée, Wil-Dog—percussion
Jerry Hey—string arrangements and conducting
Ralph Morrison—concertmaster
Jez Colin—programming
Nick Harper—main acoustic guitar and background vocals on "Love Song"
Melle Vasquez—12-string and slide guitar
Girish Gambhira—tablas
Craig Else—guitar

Produced by:

Glen Ballard, Jakko M. Jakszyk, Jez Colin, Sheila Nicholls

Comments:

This album is so different from Brief Strop that I don't really know how to reconcile the two. Of course, that's not necessary. This is an enjoyable and infectious album with catchy songs. It's less piano-based than her first album; there are songs where Sheila doesn't even play piano or keyboards at all, fuller in terms of drums and strings. The lyrics address issues of faith, confidence, apathy, self-empowerment, a better world, as well as love and relationships. So she has definitely not lost her feminist outlook or social consciousness. As much as I enjoy this album, I do think the quality is a notch below that on her first album. It's more rock/pop, more produced (perhaps overly so, at least in places), there are world music influences (most notably Middle Eastern). The lyrics are sometimes clichéd, and the social issues tend to be more preachy than coming. The jab at the Spice Girls ("And as the Spice Girls prostitute girl power in the background...), for instance, seems more like simplistic reflex and reactionary feminism at an easy target than meaningful social observation. And while I find myself singing along to the chorus of "Faith" ("When you have faith you will be willing to wait/ When you have faith through all that logic and haste, it's never too late/So try to create cos the last thing that breaks is your faith") I find the lyrics somewhat illogical, or at least banal. But it's catchy enough that I sing along happily and don't mind. The fourth track "Love Song" (a cover) is striking, and there's a really good hidden track that features just vocals and piano. It's when I get here that I miss the comparative sparseness of her first album. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Well, the inevitable happened...the "sheila and the piano" is gone and replaced with lots of instruments and production effects, her vocals don't sound as strong hence taking away from the songwriting and the songs in general. I'm still kinda looking forward to new stuff from her but these "samples" aren't making me as anxious. ugh. (RocketsTail@aol.com)


Songs from the Bardo

Release info:

2009

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Nicholls—vocals; piano (9, 11); guitar (7, 10); Rhodes (12)

Guest artists:

Jessica Catron—cello (1, 2, 4, 9, 11)
Andre de Santana—bass (1, 3, 7, 9, 10); drums and guitar (9)
Craig Else—guitar (2, 5, 12)
Jez Colin—additional programming (2, 4, 5, 12); bass (5, 8, 12); additional keys (8, 12)
Matt Chamberlain—drums (3, 7, 10, 11)
Fabio Soares—guitar (3)
Joel Shearer—guitar (3, 11)
DJ Bob Necksnap—turntables (5, 8, 10)
Lynne Earls—additional programming (6)
Luis Conte—percussion (7, 10)
Grecco Buratto—guitar (7)

Produced by:

Sheila Nicholls (1, 4-11), Jez Colin (2, 5, 8, 12), Lynne Earls (3, 7, 10, 11)

Comments:

Wonderful album. It's similar to the full band sound of Wake, but stronger lyrically and musically. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2012-05-18 22:20:10.
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