Album Review: Danielle Nicole – The Love You Bleed

Electric bassist and singer Danielle Nicole (Schnebelen) debuted with siblings Nick and Kris as Trampled Under Foot in 2000. After honing both her considerable chops and stage presence with that group for well over a decade, Nicole released her solo debut, Wolf Den, in 2015. While her work has long had its foundation in the blues, Nicole often uses the idiom as a jumping-off point for her musical excursions.

While 2018’s Cry No More displayed her affinity for (and understanding of) the classic Stax Records soul vibe, on her latest, The Love You Bleed, Nicole initially aims toward a more mainstream classic rock character. The album’s opener, “Love on My Brain” shows the strong vocals that characterize Nicole’s approach. The insistent, hypnotic drum figure and effective dynamics anchor the song, and Nicole’s lyrics explore the love and pain that inform life.

The soul character of her previous album resurfaces on “Make Love.” Nicole’s smoldering, sultry vocal performance makes “Right By Your Side” a standout, and the overdubbed chorus harmonies are spot-on. The simmering, snaky whammy-bar effects on “How Did We Get to Goodbye” give the song a haunting character, and Nicole’s vocals reinforce that feel.

A stomping blues character informs “Head Down Low.” Sustained slide guitar runs are well-placed in the arrangement. Some of the album’s most memorable guitar riffs show up on “Fireproof.” The stripped-down arrangement of “A Lover is Forever” features only guitarist Brandon Miller and Nicole’s voice; it’s an exemplar of subtlety on a record otherwise characterized by full-bodied rock (or blues, or soul-informed) arrangements.

“Say You’ll Stay” extends the gentle character of the previous tune, albeit in a full-band format. Judiciously-used string arrangements add just the right touch, and Nicole’s impassioned vocals are at the center of things. A stuttering beat with a ‘70s blues-funk feel makes “Fool’s Gold” a solid tune, but like most everywhere on The Love You Bleed, the instrumental work exists mainly to support Nicole’s vocals.

“Walk On By” is a gutsy original rocker, not the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic. Nicole’s bass is in lockstep with the guitar figures, and her overdubbed harmonies round out the arrangement. A smoky, late-night country-tinged weeper, “Who He Thinks You Are” makes the point that Nicole is every bit as authentic and compelling on an inward-looking tune as when she swings for the arena-rock fences.

More country textures show up for the album’s closing track, “Young Love on the Hill.” Mandolin, strings and some subtle drum work provide a cozy musical bed for Nicole’s ode to love. Nicely varied throughout, The Love You Bleed can serve as a sampler of Danielle Nicole’s wide-encompassing approach to her craft; it’s also a very pleasing listening experience.