Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally have been melding genres their entire careers—bluegrass, folk, country, jazz, swing, alt-roots, folkabilly, you-name-it—but when it came time to put together Western Sun, their third album as the Nell & Jim Band, Robinson and Nunally wed their passion for songwriting and storytelling, using their vocabulary of way-back influences; a story told from the roots of roots music. Released today via Whippoorwill Arts, Western Sun features Robinson and Nunally as well as their stellar band—bass fiddle player Jim Kerwin (Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Yo Yo Ma), drummer/percussionist Alex Aspinall (Chris O’Connell & the Smart Alecks, Silvestre Martinez) and accordionist/keyboard player Rob Reich (Gaucho, Circus Bella). Western Sun is available today, click here to purchase.
Selections from the 15-song album have been spotlighted by a multitude of media outlets and radio stations across the country, including Folk Alley, who said, “Western Sun showcases Robinson and Nunally’s, as well as Chris Wadsworth’s, innovative songwriting and their canny ability to paint a stunningly memorable portrait through their storytelling. The Nell & Jim Band’s romp across vast musical terrains also reveals their inventive stylings, shining a warm light on traditional music.” No Depression described the album as, “An immense sweep of roots music history that takes the listener on a sonic migration from Europe through the United States to California...that they can articulate their view so lucidly using the musical heritage of their country should give hope to all those who share their view.”
Western Sun feels drenched in history, in both music and story. “The virtuosity of the band, the depth and breadth of their talent, gives us free rein in creating interesting arrangements,” says Nunally. The band has emulsified in the bottom of the great melting pot—a roux of American music—in a way that only a group of musicians with years of experience can pull off; a perfect unit whose sum is always greater than its parts, and that’s what really makes this album shine. The songwriting and composition both serve the storytelling in a way that allows listeners to immerse themselves in the history that’s being depicted. Americana Highways pinned the band’s unique sound and vision as, “Engaging Americana-roots-alt-country music on a traditional path of balladry, bluegrass, folk, & a variety of other genres in a gloriously fluid showcase...Nell sings with an old-school country singer’s clarity while Grammy Award winner San Francisco Bay area musician Jim Nunally, (a former member of the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience) plays with jubilant authenticity.”
Western Sun opens with “By Stars and Sunrise,” a tale of an immigrant who fell in love with a Tejana named Luisa on an Emigrant Trail through what is now called Texas. Co-written with Chris Wadsworth, “By Stars and Sunrise” aims to capture the feels of the Trail and immigrant experiences while studying the Gold Rush era. Nell, the band’s primary lyricist, penned the lyrics while envisioning the song’s protagonist having two children with Luisa before heading west out of necessity, seeking fortune to support their family. The songwriting trio and soaring three-part harmonies on the chorus ring triumphant when the subject returns home; healthy with a pack full of riches. Roots Music Report praised the album’s storytelling, saying, “For folks who enjoy a variety of spiritually-tinged music with compelling stories, this tightly crafted album strikes gold. Nell & Jim Band’s ‘Western Sun' is a fresh, impressionistic album that captures the passionate beauty of contemporary, acoustic music. It’s a strong, compelling set of passion, compassion and emotional impact.”
Deeper into Western Sun, we get to “Travelin’ the Road West,” a lively bluegrass number featuring instrumental breaks from Nunallys flat-picked guitar and Robinson’s signature flute – The Bluegrass Situation recently spotlighted the song, listen here. Written by Nunally about his family, “Travelin’ the Road West” follows southern and midwestern farmers during the Great Migration West of the 1930s. “I can remember my Dad said he had been called an Okie. But he was from Arkansas, his Dad was a sharecropper there. And he, his parents, an