Franz Nicolay - Luck And Courage (Decor)

A musically matured and moustache-strokingly interesting account of modern day stories within the US.

Released Dec 7th, 2010 via Decor / By Allan Judkins
Franz Nicolay - Luck And Courage (Decor) Besides the fact that he was once a part of them, there’s really not much point even mentioning The Hold Steady any more, let alone comparing them. Franz Nicolay has considerably worked his balls off to strive to the status of an accomplished American songwriter, Luck And Courage is by far his best work.

‘Felix And Adelita’ with the brilliant lyric “tie your fishing lines to fence posts and do your best to reel them in” is a translation of the album’s title via the relationship between two individuals. As insightful as it is, it also gives off an early whiff of the album’s tendency to vary significantly compared with the next track. A gentle organ-led opener with steel pedal chords that strangely make one feel warmer than before gives off high contrast compared to the fierce crashes and mariachi-esque tangents of ‘Have Mercy’.

The minstrel’s work is becoming more applicable to the widespread public, no doubt. However, it’s not a plunge too far in this direction. Musically, it’s arguably fair to say that his category is becoming similar to artists like Sufjan Stevens and Iron And Wine, in the same respect that it is refined songwriting that’s rich in instrumentation, of the non-intrusive kind. His skills on the banjo have improved ten fold (check ‘Z for Zachariah’ for sensitivity and the title track for pure chops) however another of his other noted forte the accordion does not feature in this album, possibly due to the desire to move away from potential leanings of cabaret music and make a mark on the bigger picture.

Up until now his voice has been considerably dramatic enough to be unaccompanied, like in some numbers on the previous album Major General. Being the thoroughly passionate singer he is - it’s undoubtedly his style to be dramatic, yet his voice can be a tad too urgent for the sensitive musical nature sometimes, like in the soft opening of ‘Job 35:10’. Seemingly, catching people off guard is also his style, instantly bellowing over light finger picking. Still, in terms of the musical product, each song has been tailored differently to the point where they distinctly stand out. Instruments, moods, storylines, and general nooks and crannies all contribute to a fine suit and collectively merit a proper old-fashioned hats off.

P.S. (only applicable due to the concern of a bonus track) Naturally, you feel pity for the Americans as the Euro-only bonus track ‘Rock, Rinse, Repeat’ is one of the real charmers. Fun, progressive, and rife with catchy group chants - it’s a pearler.