Don Nix may not be a household name, but for serious fans of 1960s and 1970s music, he is an important figure: as a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and producer. He also looms large in his home town of Memphis' musical history. Nix was a member of the legendary Mar-Keys and played saxophone on the hit "Last Night." He produced records at Stax (including Delaney & Bonnie's Home) and, while at Ardent, he wrote "Going Down" for Freddie King (later covered by Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan quite successfully). Nix played on and arranged a boatload of records. He was on the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, and arranged the choir for George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh. Living by the Days was his second album of 1971 and appeared on Elektra. His first, In God We Trust, was released by Leon Russell's Shelter Records. Recorded at Muscle Shoals, its lineup includes Donald "Duck" Dunn, Barry Beckett, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Claudia Lennear, and Kathi McDonald. Opener "The Shape I'm In" (not the Robbie Robertson tune, but Nix's own; he wrote or co-wrote everything but the tepid cover of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light"), "She Don't Want a Lover (She Just Needs a Friend)," and closer "My Train's Done Come and Gone" sound somewhat similar to the music the Band was making. Gospel, loose Southern gothic funkiness, and roots rock all commingle, but Nix's plaintive voice is drenched in authenticity. (And no disrespect to the Band, but the musicians here are on a wholly different -- higher -- level.) Stomping Southern R&B and early Memphis rock & roll fuel "Olena," and one can hear more than a trace of the sounds that the Rolling Stones would "borrow" on Sticky Fingers (on which Lennear also appeared). One can hear the influence of Russell on the honky tonk gospel of "Three Angels." Despite the shortcomings of "I Saw the Light" (Furry Lewis' opening narration is priceless), Nix and the Memphis bluesman were quite close. "Going Back to Iuka" begins as a conventional electric blues but becomes a tribute to "Mystery Train," with great slide guitar work and a popping funky bassline. While Living by the Days is very much a record of its time, it is from an era that has proven timeless in appeal to subsequent generations of rock fans. Living by the Days is well worth seeking out as one of the more obscure offerings issued by a major in 1971.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek