When one musician absolutely clicks with another, a profitable and long-term collaboration usually results. In this instance, the first musician, Rhonda Nicole, is an independent singer/songwriter who seamlessly bridges urban sensibility with rock, blues and pop. As a ‘tween,’ Nicole’s songwriting skills were driven by a steady diet of rock icons like Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix, R&B heavyweights a la Prince, and all things Motown. She perfected her vocal abilities at the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in Dallas, Texas. One of her greatest memories was singing in front of over 80,000 people in 2010 at Michael Franti’s annual Power to the Peaceful Festival in San Francisco.
But, it is Nicole’s connection with her other musical half, producer/guitarist/songwriter Montrose (not to be confused with guitar legend Ronnie Montrose), that has sparked her independent music career and gets the shine on the new Nuda Veritas.
Montrose is a multi-faceted musician who shares many of Nicole’s musical inspirations. His non-conforming brand of soul and rock from electronic to P-Funk graces his 2004 sophomore release, Inertia. Since their partnership began in 2002, Montrose and Nicole have developed a loyal following in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth region. Nine years later, Montrose serves as guitarist, co-writer and producer for Nicole’s recording debut, the Nuda Veritas EP. Released on Montrose’s Candlehouse Records, Nuda Veritas fully demonstrates Nicole’s knack for writing engrossing storylines and Montrose’s eclectic personality.
Love, relationships and the continuing search for romance get a front seat on this musically diverse project. “Soul Lover” provides Booker T & the MG’s-like greasy grooves with a Bonnie Raitt edge with winsome lyrics: “When the seed has been properly planted/ The flower that blooms will take your breath away.” The delightfully quirky pop of “Just Fine,” digs into Nicole’s thoughts of wanting to be more than friends with a certain someone. On the other end of the spectrum, the moving R&B ballad “Like You Should” sketches one trapped in a conflicted relationship: “I can't make sense of the things you say/Cuz we don't communicate/but we talk every day.” Nicole’s vocal range extends from the gentle southern rock of “Wanderlust” about the daily pursuit of love to the gritty blues rock injected “Mia,” inspired by a fortune teller’s actual advice.
The musical talents of Nicole and Montrose are more than enough to carry Nuda Veritas from start to finish. And, it is clear after experiencing Nuda Veritas that this dynamic duo should remain inseparable for quite some time.
Notable tracks: “Soul Lover,” “Just Fine,” and “Like You Should.”
Vocals: 3.5 stars
Music: 3.5 stars
Lyrics: 4.0 stars
Production: 3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended
By Peggy Oliver