Expatriate American singer, songwriter, and visual artist Jeb Loy Nichols has, since beginning his recording career with Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label in the 1980s, woven a unique musical tapestry from reggae, blues, Americana, and soul. His sweet, slightly grainy tenor is perfectly suited to the latter. June Is Short, July Is Long is the first of his 11 albums cut entirely in his home studio in the Welsh countryside. The Westwood All-Stars are local musicians Nichols jams with regularly. Together they recorded a series of live-from-the-floor demos. During playback, the crew decided they were fine as they were. Nichols overdubbed a couple of horn players and tracked some additional backing vocals, but that's it.
For the most part, he eschews his hybrid sound in favor of blue-eyed soul and funky R&B. There are traces of country, but it's used primarily as a textural adornment. Opener "You Got It Wrong," is an uptempo R&B shuffle with a funky backbeat and jazzy guitar fills. With punchy horns accenting the rhythm section, a backing chorus adds heft to his smooth uptempo lead. "Think I'm Gonna Fall in Love Today" offers a Leo Nocentelli-esque guitar groove, a slippery backbeat, and gospel horns with Nichols' smoothly delivering good vibes in his lyrics. "Matter of Fact" is a sweet ballad that recalls Curtis Mayfield with its melodious guitar vamp, gentle melody, and syncopated rhythm. The band empathically frames Nichols' on the summery "There's Nothing You Can Do About It," with a faraway harmonica emerging from the backdrop. "Last Train Home" weds a funky bassline groove to Nigerian highlife guitar vamps, and rolling hi-hat cymbals as it percolates along. Single "Black Rooster" is swinging, Allen Toussaint-inspired R&B with Steve Cropper-esque guitar, though an exotic muted banjo gets plucked in the bridge. "How Can a Man (Live Without His Mother)," is lonely, atmospheric Americana that recalls the soulful restraint of Terry Callier. The slow, strolling "In the Night Time" weds Stax-style funky soul to Little Feat-inspired grooves before closer "Picture of You" carries it out with the only truly country-inspired tune on the set. What makes June Is Short, July Is Long notable in Nichols' catalog is the simplicity of purpose inherent in its production. There isn’t anything unnecessary crowding the excellent songwriting, gorgeous singing, or soulful playing. Ultimately, it's wonderful to hear the singer/songwriter so focused on letting his earliest musical inspirations guide him.