Label: Parish Line
Release Date: April 01, 2016
The Upshot: There’s an incorrigible soul deeply ingrained in the music of southern Louisiana that’s as essential as blood and water to all who live in her mystical shadows. MJN drops praise into just the right spot on every occasion.
BY ERIC THOM
How many times have you come to realize that some of your favorite artists are those who consistently prove to be the most difficult to categorize? Michael Juan Nunez (MJN) is a graduate of this school. He’s driven by some other-worldly demon to play whatever he feels – to hell with the rules. Head over heart. And while that may sound like a recipe for failure, it’s exactly this trait – one of being thoroughly unpredictable and impossible to define – that has cemented the foundation of his appeal. You just never know what you’re going to get – you only know it will be exceptionally good.
To not know what to expect has long been Nunez’ Ace of Spades. A disciple of Sonny Landreth with a side of Stevie Ray, he’s also influenced by the real-world of local legends Lil’ Buck Senegal and Harry “Big Daddy” Hypolite, having also toured with a treasure trove of Louisiana’s richest bedrock. MJN has earned his position the hard way, driven by something more than dreaming of an eventual payday. It’s like he’s got no choice in the matter – and the music will out – as it has on Rise, his 5th release.
Begin with the cacophonous “Betta” – drink in its dark, distorted vocal, electronic-pulsed intro and thunderous, dirge-like beat, adding a blistering blend of pulverizing guitars like you’ve just stumbled into a fearsome, Led Zeppelin-fueled, Satanic reunion of lost dreamers. He succeeds in scaring off the meek of mind, launching into the comparably upbeat “Come Into The Light” – which anyone would be anxious to do at this point. What’s this? Uptempo, happy music – like you’ve just been rescued by Harry Belafonte, flashing his patented smile and waving a bolero from atop his rearing, white steed? Toss in Mike Burch’s crisp snare, Nunez’ deft, finger-fired, near-Flamenco runs on acoustic guitar, the angelic backup vocals of Charlene Howard and Dudley Fruge and you’re about ready for the volleyball net to go up. Did somebody change the disc? But wait – Beelzebub is back – with a searing guitar and bass-driven attack – and just when you thought the flowers might actually begin to grow. “Lost It” returns the trend to into the dark tunnels with processed, almost-other-worldly vocals that turn out a tough, punishing sound that, still, leans on strong guitar hooks and scorching leads to register its general disdain. “Trouble” is all clean-sounding acoustic guitar as it introduces Eric Adcock’s B3 and the haunting vocal support of Charlene Howard to deliver its bleak predictions. Make note of “Burning” – an exacting power ballad if ever there was one, driven by Adcock’s rich keyboards, Nunez’ soulful vocals and a tasty slide solo for good measure.
If that all feels like an incredible musical range, you’re right. Know that Nunez & his American Electric hail from lower Louisiana – where nothing much counts much unless it’s benefited from the osmosis of everything else first. Hence, British rock is roughly married to Texas blues, Cajun to N’awlins R&B, funk to elements of Louisiana soul and a rich gumbo of everything in-between – sometimes blended into the same song. So “Lemonade” funks up an age-old expression and, with the creative assistance of Clint “Chief” Redwing on drums and percussion, Adcock on Hammond B3, plus (daughter) Jordan Nunez on clavinet, Nunez anoints it with liquid-sounding leads and his own lead and backing vocals, creating a head-turning boogie with a difference. Likewise, little can prepare you for the inventive, deeply soulful groove of “BLTLO (Baby, Leave the Light On)” – packed to the hilt with ardent vocals, a lush chorus, animated percussion and deep-set blues guitar leads – all wrapped up in Djembe Lee Allen Zeno’s warm, fat basslines. The Prince-friendly “Human” is an evil-sounding, sex-dipped, slow-sizzler of a track – an erotic, slow-boil of custom guitar-effects which builds towards a techno-climax, hinting at glam-rock – a true space oddity for a futuristic Science Fiction film, to be named later. “Nickel Roll” is a piano-drenched taste of N’awlins blues with all the dirty guitar you can eat, sensational ivory-tinkling from Eric Adcock and a solid rhythm section in Redwing and Zeno. Adcock’s piano is featured here together with MJN’s dark slide to supernatural effect. As always, MJN’s vocals are his sleeper play – all earthy tones, warm register and capable of bringing each character to life. If you listen close, you’ll see images of Chris Whitley forming over a moss-packed bayou backdrop. “Devil’s Daughter” presents a powerful offering that’s almost commercial in its scope and degree of shine. At the same time, it kicks into a second gear at the 4-minute mark that’s equal parts Texas blues jam and sheer South Louisiana hypnotics. And, in keeping with an aura of authentic Louisiana mojo, snakes, skulls and slammin’ the devil’s brood only adds more zest to Rise’s already distinctive sauce, with its double shot of piquant bite.
All this and a complementary Rorschach Test of a front cover, depicting a bird that may think he’s Phoenix-bound but who’s more than likely headed anywhere but heaven. Satisfy your darker side and seek out this seductive spellbinder. Michael Juan Nunez is one of those rare talents who gets there with his music without ever having tried to jeopardize the process by forcing it or doing anything against the natural flow of things. He’s just that good.
of Baton Rouge
April 7th 2016
Blues Fest Spotlight: Michael Juan Nunez
Michael Juan Nunez knows a thing or two about the blues.
The lead guitarist and singer, who was born in Lafayette and now calls Erath home, will perform at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the Front Porch stage at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival.
This week, Nunez released his fourth album, “Rise.” It’s his first album since 2012’s “My Little Train Wreck.”
“We hadn’t even got (‘My Little Train Wreck’) in, and I started recording the follow-up immediately,” Nunez said. “There was close to 40 songs, if not more, I had written for (‘Rise’).”
He wasn’t too happy with the way “My Little Train Wreck” turned out, either. This time around, he had to do things his way.
“I go back to ‘My Little Train Wreck,’ and I think that it was an album made for a certain crowd, and we were trying to do too much,” he said. “At my age, I’m not so concerned with what people think. I’m confident in my abilities. I’m doing this for me and for the people who love my music.”
In three years’ time, Nunez admits there were personal ups and downs.
“The past three years have not been the best of my life,” he said. “Making this record was my salvation. There were times when I would fall apart and retreat to the studio. Then, I would get my peace of mind back and handle my business.”
All the 46-year-old needed was his guitar, his band and his producer, A.J. Dauphin.
“(Dauphin) has known me my entire life,” Nunez said. “He is like a father figure to me, and he has exquisite taste in music. When I was younger, he turned me on to Stevie Ray Vaughan and all those Austin cats. He would take me out to shows.”
“Rise” is the fourth collaboration between Dauphin and Nunez. Between each release, Nunez will record a demo then send it to Dauphin.
“(Dauphin) can tell me exactly what he feels,” Nunez said. “He’s not going to pull any punches. He’s my voice of reason.”
The 10 songs were a result of what the two felt were the best. On “Rise,” you’ll hear callbacks to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” on the song “Come Into the Light.” Nunez and the band also rerecorded their song “Lemonade,” making it funkier after being inspired by R&B singer D’Angelo’s latest release, “Black Messiah.”
The album also features that deep, bluesy fuzz tone on songs like “Betta.” It’s as if Nunez’s guitar is roaring, as if he’s performing with a thunderbolt and trying to catch all its energy. Nunez credits that sound to an old Fender Tremolux amp he has used since he was a teen.
“When I started playing electric guitar, that was my first amp,” he said. “Through the years, I’ve maybe been through 20 amps. Everyone of them, I’d sell them, trade them and go back to that amp.”
That sound is what Nunez grew up hearing. When he was younger, he would listen to his sister’s collection of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin albums. At the same time, his parents were jamming everything from Hank Williams to Slim Harpo.
“I remember distinctly one night, my friend and I were listening to Led Zeppelin, and ‘I Can’t Quit You’ came on,” Nunez said. “For some reason, earlier that day, I had heard Muddy Waters’ version. It dawned on me what these cats like the Stones and Zeppelin were doing. I started looking at the liner notes, researching all of that. I got stuck in this wormhole.”
That wormhole is a place he can’t escape. Throughout the past three years, he and his bandmates have grown together. All the while, he said, he has a radio playing melodies and blues sounds in his head. Music is not only his outlet, it’s his way of persevering.
“I’m not a person who talks about my business,” he said. “Being able to write and get it out through song helps deal with all that stuff.”
And you can bet he’s already got songs written for the next album.
“Oh Jesus Christ, yes,” he said, laughing after being asked if he’s recorded any new material. “I already have an acoustic record in the can for when the time comes.”
Feb. 28, 2016
By: David Fatherree
ERATH — There are a lot of great musicians who have made their way out of the swamps and prairies of southwest Louisiana. But even more are still here, plying their trade in the clubs and dance halls the dot the landscape.
And at least one is ready to let the rest of the world know he’s here.
Although his webpage labels him as a roots rock/blues musician, Erath’s Michael Juan Nunez says he doesn’t feel worthy to take on the bluesman mantle. He names Texas bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughn as a musical idol and can play the right notes, but says doesn’t feel he has enough grit in his soul to don the title.
“You have to have a certain authenticity,” he said. “You ain’t gonna be a bluesman until you live that life. A lot of my heroes are blues players, but I am not a blues player. I got into blues to be a better rock guitarist.”
And now Nunez looks poised to break out to a larger audience. Already known for his soulful slide playing and aggressive guitar attack, his new record, “Rise,” focuses more on the songwriting, roaming the aural landscape to pick some tasty morsels of blues, soul, and even a little calypso before it is done.
“I had a title, and I had an image in mind and about 30 songs,” Nunez said of the process behind creating the new record. “After a year or so, we started sending demos, but I never expected it to drift as far as this did from the original concept.”
By the time it was finished, with dozens of titles and as many images and paintings considered for the project, the cover was set — a stark image, striking, yet hopeful, with the title “Rise” in red across the left corner.
One surprising thing about “Rise” is that it isn’t the guitar-centered blues or rock record some listeners would expect. Sure, there are moments of the hauntingly beautiful slide work and searing solos Nunez is known for, but much more present is Nunez the songwriter, crafting lyrical textures and a thick, solid old-school soul that firmly anchors the diverse sound palette of the songs.
His command of that medium is not surprising. Nunez was exposed to music early by his father, Warren Nunez, who played country Western music and was a regular on the Leroy “Happy Fats” LeBlanc Show on a local television station.
“I remember when we lived in Lafayette, up until I was about 10,” he said, “I remember we had a house on Eraste Landry and the band rehearsed in the living room. I was fascinated with my dad’s guitar.”
A few years later, after the family moved to Erath, he finally asked for some help learning the instrument.
“He was working seven and seven back then,” Nunez explained, “and he said, ‘OK, I’ll show you three chords. When you master those, I’ll show you three more. When he came back the next week, I had them down and was ready for more.”
In fact, Nunez was voracious in his hunger for more musical knowledge. When he had learned everything his father could teach him, he was sent to his neighbor, Cajun music legend D.L. Menard, for more instruction.
For his 15th Christmas, he finally got an electric guitar — a Peavey Patriot whose pickups now reside in a cigar box guitar Nunez built recently.
“I remember seeing Eddie Van Halen on TV, and he freakin’ blew me away,” Nunez said. From there he found Led Zepplin, then the Rolling Stones, then Muddy Waters, Robert Patton, Blind Willie Johnson — and that led right back to Zepplin and the Stones, who were basically lifting those blues masters lick for lick.
But for Nunez, it has always been the depth of his musical background that has set his sound apart.
“I’m always teaching myself,” he said. “You can’t stop learning.”
Link to the online article
The Daily Advertiser
Nunez: ‘This stuff was taken from the blues’
Music in the house seemed as natural as breathing when Michael Juan Nunez was growing up. Blues was part of that household soundtrack, but Nunez had no idea that the music had a name.
But his world turned upside down the day Nunez heard blues great Muddy Waters playing “I Can’t Quit You Baby.”
“It freaked me out because Earl Hooker was playing the guitar line,” said Nunez. “Jimmy Page had ripped it off lick for lick. It clicked for me that this stuff was taken from the blues.
“I started doing my own research. The deeper I got into the blues, the rock that came after it didn’t sound as heavy. You listen to Howling Wolf. That dude was scary. His voice was so big.
“That music sounded so much more edgy than the rock music, which was supposed to be edgy. I got lost in that thing.”
Nunez shares his fascination with music fans across the globe Saturday during International Blues Music Day. Since 2013, the New York City Blues Society has celebrated the day to honor the music’s past, present and future.
Dozens of blues societies around the world participate by hosting live music events, workshops and more. Money is raised for scholarships for Generation Blues, a summer camp program for ages 21 and younger.
The Acadiana Blues Society has been able to raise more than $1,000 for the cause. The local celebration returns at 7 p.m. Saturday at Route 92 Bar in Youngsville.
Dwight Roy and Electric Seed, with Nunez as special guest, perform. Primo Duo open with an acoustic performance.
The event includes jambalaya and food prepared from a whole hog for a down home blues party.
“This is the third year we’ve done this and people say it’s just like a party,” said Tina Krieg of the Acadiana Blues Society. “You walk in, you grab something to eat.
“Usually the musicians are walking around. You visit with those guys and take pictures. It’s just more of a house party. I’m glad they’re allowing us to do that there. I know it’s out of the way, but it’s a great venue. It’s worked out well.”
Nunez is looking forward to playing with Dwight Roy, a local guitarist that he describes as “one of the most promising young acts on the scene.”
“He’s a really talented young man,” said Nunez. “I’m going to play some of my roots, with originals and the stuff that I dig. Stuff that made me want to play.”
“We need to keep this stuff vital. Give the younger cats a shot and give them exposure.”
The Daily Advertiser
by: Bill Decker
No one has to spend much time in Acadiana before discovering a rich musical heritage that stretches from folk forms like juré all the way to rock and world-beat rhythms.
The best of that music captures the lives of the people here:
“Two weeks on, and I’m about to snap.
“I left my baby back home in Erath.
“Covered in mud from head to heel,
“Pumpin’ that oil through water and steel. …
“Twelve hours a day just to make that dough,
“But it sure gets lonely when that sun gets low
“10 miles in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“She’s got plenty of chicken and black-eyed peas,
“Cold maque choux and mustard greens,
“A bowl of gravy and pile of rice,
“A little salt and a lot of spice.”
Those lyrics are from “Water and Steel” and “Mama’s Kitchen,” two songs on the 2005 album “About to Snap” by guitar player-songwriter Michael Juan Nunez. For 10 years, he’d say goodbye to wife Tammy, a teacher, when he went to work offshore. The real mama’s kitchen is next door, on property near Erath that his family has owned for decades.
Now Nunez is getting ready to make another album. The choices he’ll make about the style and scope of the work may say a lot about the state of the local music industry.
The new album “hasn’t told me what it wants to be yet,” Nunez said in a recent interview.
He describes himself as a rock guitarist, but he’ll have a lot of musical influences to choose from, starting with his own father. The late Warren Nunez played guitar in country bands, but he also worked sometimes as a tugboat captain.
“He’d teach me three chords,” Nunez said. “He’d be gone seven days, and if I learned the three chords, he’d teach me three more. I don’t think he thought I was serious at the time. But he’d come back and I’d know the three chords, and I was ready to go.”
For his 15th Christmas, he found that his mother and father had left envelopes around the house, each containing a clue about his present. He found it in a back room — his first electric guitar.
D.L. Menard is a family friend who lived nearby and helped spark an interest in Cajun music in Nunez. In his teens, he followed pop music and then heavy metal, which he said actually taught him lessons in music theory.
“It helped me understand what was going on behind it all and how to put it together,” Nunez said. “And it led me to Zeppelin, which led me to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.
“Blues had an edge. The rock guys doing it all of a sudden sounded soft and poppy compared to them.”
Nunez graduated from high school bands playing at parties and dances to club performances around the area. Nunez said he turned down a chance to play for Doug Kershaw for three months in Japan in the early 1990s because he was still a newlywed. But he ended up playing with Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars for five years and has also backed Zachary Richard.
He would be part of the RiverBabys, which would also include longtime collaborators Chad Willis and Jeff Lewis. They made a splash at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2001 but were disqualified for playing over their time limit.
About the same time, Nunez made a self-named solo album of acoustic songs, mostly his own compositions. Offbeat magazine in New Orleans was lavish in its praise.
The producer was A.J. Dauphin, of Austin, who is also Nunez’ brother-in-law. He admires Nunez’ talent, but said the reception “took me by surprise”
Nunez said Dauphin has been an important influence on his music. He refers to Dauphin as his “ambassador of good taste.”
Nunez’ next album, “About to Snap,” took longer to develop. It came together just as the RiverBabys were drifting apart. Members took full-time day jobs or went to other bands. The record contained 14 Nunez-penned songs.
“I can remember on that record specifically not wanting to write about relationships,” Nunez said. “It seemed like every song on the radio was about relationships…
“The other thing was I wanted to paint pictures. I wanted people to have this really colorful image of this thing. And three, I wanted everything to be simple, as simple as it could be, because I still had no band…
“I knew if I get a good musician to come in on my gig, we could talk about the song and we could play it right there, on the spot.”
The album featured many musicians: Clint Redwing (Nunez’s partner in the two-piece VPB), Lewis and Dudley Fruge on drums; Willis, Kyle Hebert, and Nunez on bass; Harry Hypolite, Menard and Nunez on guitar; and Romero on accordion.
After nearly two years of work, Nunez and Dauphin went to New Orleans to finish the work that had to be done in a studio.
“We ended up going to down to the Quarter and sitting down and having a drink,” Nunez said. “And I was thinking, ‘Wow. It took two years to get to this point here...’ But I was really proud of that record.”
“I love that CD,” Dauphin said. “He’s got the knack for being very, very artistic and creative and not just rock ‘n’ roll.”
The album won critical acclaim and some national airplay. More praise followed his 2009 album, “The American Electric,” which featured a harder rock edge and a rougher brand of storytelling on tracks like “Punks Like You” and “Dirty Politics.” And in 2012, Nunez reunited with Willis, Redwing and Dauphin to release “My Little Train Wreck” — less complex lyrically but more attuned to fans of straight-ahead, bluesy southern rock.
Now it’s on to the next album, whatever form it might take. Among the considerations: He’ll have to play live to promote the album, so what musicians are likely to be available? Should he keep the songs as simple as possible to accommodate a changing musical cast? He admires the bass work of Lee Allen Zeno of Buckwheat Zydeco. How often will Zeno be available?
Dauphin had his own prediction about the shape of the new album.
“It’s a bit more like ‘About to Snap,’” he said. “It comes down to the lyrics and the feel of the music, the hypnotic groove."
Michael Juan Nunez and The American Electric
"My Little Train Wreck"
Published in OffBeat Magazine August 1st 2012
by: Dan Willging
Though Michael Juan Nunez may not be a household name when it comes to national, blues rock circles, truthfully, his stuff is just as good as those more famous cats. The Erath native has delivered several superb discs over the past dozen years with each demonstrating how he continues to advance in his craft. As a guitarist, he’s thick with licks, rife with riffs and has enough textures to fill the state of Texas. But whether he’s cranking out crunchy chords and rolling howling slides, he’s not the self-indulgent six-string slinger loaded with hell-bent histrionics. His shots lean towards thoughtful, conceptual cuts that take lots of listens to unravel. He sets up the fugitive-fleeing saga of “18 Miles” by simulating a recording of a Spanish guitar on a Mexican radio station on the preceding “Border Station.” On the rollicking “Lemonade,” Nunez is joined by a trio of horns for a jump blues feel while he keeps steady with a pulsating baseline. Initially, it’s an amusing hard-luck story until Nunez surprises with a politically charged verse about fat cats and bailouts.
There’s often intensity and edginess about his protagonists (“Hard Side of Easy”) but there’s also tongue-in-cheek humor as well – like the angst of “Make up My Mind” and “Train Wreck,” which finds Nunez playing side-by-side with Sonny Landreth for insightful contrast of styles. But the funniest of all is “No Rock-N-Roll,” the title inspired by Mississippi bluesman Fred McDowell who once proclaimed: “I don’t play no rock-n-roll” emblazoned on the title of one of his last albums. Here Nunez goes blitzkrieg ballistic, while, ironically, regurgitating all the things parents say to their rebelling teenagers about their blaring rock music (“them loud guitars, they drive me crazy”). If such things were said to Nunez during his youth, it’s a good thing he didn’t listen.
On: 'Best of Festival International'
By: Dominick Cross
"Michael Juan Nunez and The American Electric were just that - Electric. You could run on the power and vibe the band exuded Throughout the rest of the day."
Music News Nashville
BillBoard Magazine May 18th 2012
Michael Juan Nunez and The American Electric
"My Little Train Wreck"
by: Chuck Dauphin
Hailing from South Louisiana, you can definitely get a feel for where Michael Juan Nunez is coming from in his music. This music sounds like it was meant to be played –loudly on Bourbon Street down in New Orleans. That is very apparent from the stirring blues riffs that this band plays on “Make Up My Mind.” The instrumentation- Nunez on the guitars, Chad Willis on the bass, and Clint Rodwing on the drums – is first rate all over the album, but particularly on this track.
They continue that wide-open sound on the cast-it-to-the-wind vibe of the free-wheeling “Train Wreck” and venture into boogie territory on “Lemonade.” It’s pretty much attitude-laden all over the place, most prominently on the well-written “Hard Side Of Easy” and the churning sounds of “No Rock ‘N’ Roll.” But, for my ears, the two best cuts were somewhat of a departure from the rest of the disc. There’s the laid back feel of “Harry” and the Gospel-Soul sounds of “Up Jump The Devil.” The talents of these three gentlemen will astound you here. Keep on the lookout for these guys. They are that good!
Nunez's CD anything but a 'Little Train Wreck'
The Daily Advertiser 7/19/12
By: Herman Fuselier
Musicians making songs in the same studio is almost a relic of the past. Today, one member of a band can record a track before sending the digital file across town, or across the globe, for the next musician to add his contributions.
Guitarist Michael Juan Nunez of Erath has done his share of tracking. But Nunez says the digital technology cannot replicate soul.
"Whenever you have to piece together stuff, it's either too perfect or something's not quite right," said Nunez. "Very seldom do you hear the sweet spot with it.
"When you're in the same room, the guitar is bleeding through the drum mic. The bass bleeds through the guitar mic. The band sounds like a unit.
"We're looking at each other and playing off each other. You don't get that when you have to overdub everything. The end result is it sounds more like a band record. "
Nunez and his rock/blues trio, The American Electric, kept the rawness and imperfections of live studio sessions to make their new band record, "My Little Train Wreck." The results are anything but a wreck. The band, which includes bass player Chad Willis and drummer Clint "Chief" Redwing, teamed with Grammy-winning engineer and producer Tony Daigle to record an entertaining CD of 10 original songs.
Nunez also likes the results.
"I'm pretty happy with it," said Nunez. "This is the first CD since (old band) The River Babys that has a band working as a unit.
"We've been jamming for a while and they knew the tunes."
Special guests include slide guitar guru Sonny Landreth and Dudley "Cruz" Fruge, who's played with Roddie Romero and Zachary Richard. Both perform on the CD's title track.
Alex Boudreaux (trumpet), Josh Trahan (trombone) and Mike Veazey contribute on "Lemonade. The CD's most touching cut is "Harry", a tribute to the late blues guitarist Harry Hypolite.
A tall, larger-than-life personality with a booming voice to match, Hypolite played guitar with zydeco king Clifton Chenier and continued with Chenier's son, C. J., following Clifton's death in 1987.
Hypolite stepped up to center stage in 2001 with his solo CD, Louisiana Country Boy. But four years later, as he was gaining international recognition, Hypolite lost his life in an auto accident near Baton Rouge.
Nunez has played "Harry" in live gigs. But he's pleased the song is making its CD debut.
"He's a friend that I lost. I think about him all the time. He had a big heart and he was so warm.
"I learned a lot playing with him. I wish I would have had more opportunities. He could just work a crowd. I imagine that came from his time with Clifton.
"He had diabetes and he'd show up to a gig, sick like a dog. But he put everything that he had in it. He loved music."
The Times Of Acadiana
By: Dawanye Fatheree
My Little Train Wreck (ParishLine Records LLC)
Michael Juan Nunez and Chad Willis go way back.
“It was 2001 when we started playing together,” Willis said. “I had just moved back from Austin and we got together shortly thereafter.”
That decade or so of chemistry is evident when Nunez and Willis really start to chew on a groove. Whether it be an old Robert Johnson chestnut or a more modern flavored original from The American Electric, the band the pair comprise along with drummer Clint Redwing.
“Music is all about tension and release,” Nunez said. “If you gotta create with chaos, then you gotta create it. We know how to release it.”
And release it they do. When The American Electric gets wound up, the energy touches every member of the audience. Despite the obvious talent and technique that each member of the band brings to the table, the live performance is far more visceral than subtle.
“We beat the crap out of our instruments,” Nunez said with a bit of a laugh.
“We stick to the traditional blues, but add our own stuff to it.” Willis said. “It just happens. There’s not a whole lot of thought. Juan brings in material and we just go with it.”
That doesn’t mean the band isn’t tight. Watching a set from TAE is a clinic in solid groove, with Willis and Redwing lock-stepping a foundation that Nunez uses to create his beautifully intense guitar structures. Whether arpeggiating a counter to the rhythm’s melody or creating a soaring slide solo, Nunez dances his note across Willis’ bass as surely as a tightrope walker back flips across the high wire.
And in the end, the music shines as a result of the longtime collaboration between the musicians.
“We’re growing as a songwriting team,” Willis said. “We are rocking it up a little bit, but still trying to stay true to our roots, which are in the blues, and the Cajun music of the area.”
That truth comes through in both the songwriting and in the performance. The new record, “My Little Train Wreck” was recorded in less than a week.
We went in and knocked it out in four days,” Nunez said. “The last TAE record was more like a solo record. This one was definitely a band effort.”
“My Little Train Wreck” is a lot more cohesive than the eponymous first TAE recording, partially because of the presence of Redwing on the drum kit. Redwing, an old friend of Nunez from high school , joined the band when drummer Dudley Fruge had to devote more time to his new job.
“The thing about Clint is that he’s my favorite shuffle drummer in the world” Nunez said. “A lot of times when I write I have a group in mind. This record, I definitely wrote with him in mind.”
Another nice touch on the new album was a guitar track from Sonny Landreth, a player Nunez has respected for years.
“I had that song ‘Train Wreck’, and I could hear him playing” Nunez said. “He gave us like 10 tracks and everything he laid down was perfect. We could have mixed 10 different versions of the song and they all would have been great.”
As much admiration as he has for Landreth, Nunez also realizes he has his own sound to sculpt if he is going to stay out of his mentor’s shadow.
“I don’t want to push that away.” He said of the comparison between his sound and Landreth’s, “but when you hear us on that track, side by side, you can hear the differences.”
7/1/10 — by Dan Willging
Lafayette blues rocker Michael Juan Nunez doesn’t waste any time in getting to the meat of the matter on American Electric, his third carefully crafted release in a decade. On the blitzkrieg opening track alone (“Punks Like You”), his protagonist averts a bloodbath by standing up to a drunken bully. It’s intense and sets the tone for an album that includes “Doney,” a Delta blues-styled song that includes a grisly double murder. “Dirty Politics” finds Matt Perrine’s funky tuba flooding the bottom end as Nunez personifies corruption as a universal networking fiend.
Regardless of the subject, he rarely lets up on the throttle, shifting through bombastic shakers, bluesy romps and sweet, greasy soul. Nunez does so without succumbing to convention. Whereas most would enlist a guest accordionist on a zydeco-theme song, “Coming Home” is an eerie, mystical illustration with gospel-ish, séance overtones and not a squeezebox in sight. A faint background voice seemingly from the hinterland utters, “They bounced this way; they bounced that way” as if it were a dream.
Nunez is a tasteful slide guitarist with bountiful fireball licks, but American Electric is not a guitar hero album. His playing and creative producing skills are part of a turbo-charged package that dovetails neatly within the confines of his songs—besides being one that rocks you silly.
Blues Revue Magazine
A dynamite singer, Louisiana’s Michael Juan Nunez arranges his songs using lines drawn from rock-n-roll as well as Mississippi, and Louisiana blues, working both with a band and with drum machines and tape loops. The hip results, except for “Necktie” (Beatles-esque) and “Punks Like You” (post-punk of course), fall entirely within the blues and R&B spectrum. Start with the greasy shuffle “Nobody Else”, the cool soul of “Groove With Me”, the funky stomper “Dirty Politics”, and the careening boogie “Sho Got Mo”. The American Electric (ParishLine Reocrds) is likely to perplex, and delight listeners. We’re delighted!!
BY: Cody Daigle
From the start of his new album 'The American Electric', Michael Juan Nunez makes it clear he's not playing around. 'Punks Like You', a quick snarling track, stakes its ground unequivocally: give him some room. He knows punks like you.What's most rewarding about 'The American Electric' (apart from the smiles you get from a song like 'Punks'), the room it gives is to take a closer look at Nunez, and luckily, we get to know quite a lot.
The songs on 'The American Electric' are muscular creations, leaning heavily on Nunez's soulful guitar lines, reaching deep into southern rock and blues traditions. Lyrically, Nunez summons contemporary notions through patois of down and dirty blues (as in the case of 'Dirty Politics', which delivers sharp social commentary through lyrics that conjure go-to populist sentiments in simple, clean language), and hit emotional high notes through pared-down, unshowy turns of phrase. These songs feel both fresh and traditional, contemporary and weather-worn, lived in and new. And it feels disarmingly personal.
The album is long on swagger, with songs like 'Punks', and 'BullDog' bristling with machismo, but the puffed-up tone of much of the album never comes off as posturing. There's a little bit of everything on the album: political engagement, musings on the rough and tumble of love, the sexy come-on, the playful party boy.
The album even ends on a surprising note: 'Goodbye', the album's final track and a winking take on a mournful love song from the heyday of the American song, sung with a tongue-in-cheek '40s flair. It all feels like the work of a musician running on instinct, chasing the songs that pour out of him without thinking, digging deep and pulling up the relevant bits, setting them to music and then setting them free.
The tunes on 'The American Electric' feel like the authentic expression of a man clear in who he is and comfortable in his own skin. It's a fun and revealing album, one you'll dig into often, with relish.
Parrotized on-line Magaizine 5/11/10
By: Jason Goldman
The American Electric
A key element of his sound is his slide guitar playing, which I put on par with Johnny Winter. He's got wicked tone and great control. While he's not quite as inventive as Sonny Landreth, he's no slouch. Listen to the tight electric blues of Bulldog. While that live version lacks the bass and percussion of the album version, you can catch the slide accents thrown into the basic groove, with some more interesting slide work coming in during the lead. The lyrics are clever and this is clearly a club favorite.
The next track, Mr. Jones, crosses a stumble-rhythm blues rocker with Hendrix's Voodoo Chile Slight Return. It's lyrically derivative of Dylan's Ballad of a Thin Man, with some of the acid tone, but more repetitive. There's a fair amount of White Stripes in there too, as Nunez cops an in-your-face attitude. Once again, the slide sails in over the top and howls an inner angst. This is the rough diamond of The American Electric.
There are plenty of other good tracks, including the soulful R&B of Groove With Me and the old time blues of Doney. The only odd note is NeckTie, with its cut time beat and weird retro feel. It's not a bad song and I suppose it helps show Nunez's range, but the album would have been fine without it.
While a drinking party can be fun, this music calls for a flavorful session beer -- good taste and nothing to slow your feet from feeling the beat. Maybe a Pilsner Urquell would hit the spot, balanced and smooth.
Bluesman Michael Juan Nunez is ‘About to Snap.’
By: Scott Jordan 5/18/2005
You can tell a lot about a man from the company he keeps and in the case of Michael Juan Nunez, it’s a telling barometer of his talent. Nunez is most often found supplying guitar leads, harmonies and melodic solos for Roddy Romero & the Hub City Allstars, and his six-string prowess has also been tapped by Zachary Richard and blues legends Henry Gray and Harry Hypolite. But Nunez is much more than a bandmate and gun for hire. His 2002 self-titled solo CD showcased Nunez’ acoustic fingerpicking, and now his new CD, About to Snap, shows Nunez blossoming as a songwriter. He still mines archetypal blues imagery and metaphors (black cat bones, voodoo, jelly rolls) on kickoff tracks “Pack My Bag Blues” and “My Cadillac,” but tracks like the pipeline worker’s lament “Water and Steel” and the cooking comfort of “Mama’s Kitchen” find Nunez creating an intensely personal brand of south Louisiana blues.Guitar aficionados will find plenty to like on About to Snap, as Nunez deftly weaves a variety of textures (alternating between acoustic and electric) in ballads like “I Am No Saint” and the syncopation of “Donkey Donkey.” The ultimate proof of Nunez’ creativity and guitar wizardry is, ironically, the album’s only cover song — a scorching arrangement of the traditional blues warhorse “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” Nunez recasts the brooding Muddy Waters-associated track with a heap of fuzz tones, distortion blasts and disembodied vocal effects that sound like a blast from a vintage transistor radio. Lafayette blues fans will want to tune in.
By: Dege Legg | 9/02/2009
You thought you knew Michael Juan Nunez? You thought you had him pegged? Louisiana blues gun slinger and songwriter. Right? Think again. On his new CD, The American Electric, Nunez, like some mad scientist locked up in the labs of his mind, audaciously deconstructs his own love of the blues, roots, rock, and folk comes out with a Frankstein-like monster that roars, grinds, stomps, jitters, tweaks, and howls, and spits at bloated totems. Like some kid just reveling in the joy of making music, Michael Juan, at mid-career strangely enough, has thrown the rule book out of the window. Much like Tom Waits did in the 80’s, Nunez reaches for something stranger yet superior to his past efforts. Showing little allegiance to the purist orthodoxy that dries the lifeblood of new creation, Nunez playfully whips his way through tunes that screech, grind, honk, and snarl through forests peppered with spastic bass farts, and rabid attitude. Whether it’s the Casio drum track on “Punks Like You” or a slide guitar line that doesn’t resolve, all bets are off. This is mutated binary Slonky Tonk for the digital age. This is John Lee Hooker mind-melding with Ray Kurzwell. This is dead beer cans in a supercollider. Even the speed-metal looking fonts on the album jacket buck the tradition of what you would expect of a “blues dude”. It’s a ballsey record, I cannot lie. From the opening track to the - out of freaking nowhere- carbuncle pre-war waltz that closes the album, it’s a killer!