James Nixon has not been an easy artist to pin down stylistically. Some people associate the veteran singer/guitarist with gospel (specifically, African-American gospel as opposed to, say, white country gospel), while others know him for blues and Southern soul. On top of that, Nixon has done country sessions as a guitarist -- which makes sense given his Nashville connection. So where does Live in Europe fit in? For the most part, this 48-minute CD (which documents a show at Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland in November 2001) illustrates his talents as an electric bluesman and a performer of Southern soul. Some gospel artists consider blues the music of the Devil -- at least the ones who are more fundamentalist in their thinking -- and all that folklore about Robert Johnson and other bluesmen allegedly selling their souls to Beelzebub in order to strengthen their chops has been promoted by everyone from Baptist ministers to heavy metal and hard rock headbangers. But Nixon obviously doesn't see things that way; he has had no problem thriving in both religious and secular environments. So given his history, it isn't surprising that even though the blues and Southern soul dominate Nixon's set in the Netherlands, he makes a spiritual detour on inspired performances of "Stand Up" (his biggest hit in the gospel market) and Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions' mid-'60s hit "People Get Ready" (a gem that became a civil rights anthem). And the fact that Live in Europe focuses on secular material more often than not doesn't mean that Nixon is any less convincing when he performs "Stand Up" and "People Get Ready." He shines on both the secular and the spiritual, making Live in Europe a pleasure to listen to.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson