ALBUM REVIEW: The Nth Power 'Live To Be Free'
Words By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)
The Nth Power is a multi-genre playing, soul-preaching, funk machine that has exploded onto our beloved jamband scene with their truly unique combination of pure musical skill, a deep love/connection with their personal spiritualities, and a fan-base that is only getting more ravenous with each new release. Led by the formidable and downright nasty drumming of “The Evangelist” Nikki Glaspie, formerly of Beyoncé and Dumpstaphunk, The Nth Power brings a youthful energy and undying joy to each and every live performance. Their latest live release Live To Be Free is a perfect example of how far this band has come in the last two years, and in my opinion leaves room for growth and improvement as well.
Created in New Orleans and based out of Brooklyn, New York, The Nth Power has gone through a few different lineup variations while rising quickly to funk fame, most notably having powerhouse vocalist/organist Nigel Hall leave the band and being replaced with “The Anointed” Courtney Smith. Smith has some great chops on each form of piano/keyboard he gets his hands on, but for this live release his synth playing is what truly shines through. “Thirsty” and “Right Now” have Courtney taking full-on synth solos that combine beautifully with shredding guitar, funky bass lines, and a non-stop solid Glaspie beat. Smith also can be a force on the mic, with his large vocal range being a bit different than the soulful/deep singing of former member Hall.
Helping Smith on lead vocals is “The Master Prophet” Nick Cassarino, who came to my attention a couple years ago on Jam Cruise when he was invited to sit-in with almost every “Jam Room” host, and his play in The Nth Power seems to have impressed even more people. Formerly of the Jennifer Hartswick Band and hailing from Vermont, Cassarino is one of the most energetic, soulful, and pure “fun to see live” front men I have come across in a very long time. His passion for each and every song comes through so purely it is almost hard not to chuckle at his gut-wrenching facial expressions and almost contortion-like guitar poses. Great examples of Nick’s vocal power can be heard in “Could it Be,” “Joy,” and “Take My Soul” with the later being my favorite song on this live release. “Take My Soul” has a shreddy edge to it, reminding me of old-school Robert Randolph or even more bluesy with ZZ Top coming to mind. Smith’s funky organ licks intertwine beautifully with Cassarino’s up-and-down guitar progressions, but all take a backseat to Glaspie’s driving drum tempo, which make for a great rock song. Cassarino can absolutely shred on the electric guitar, and his various uses of tones and pedal effects comes through on “Right Now” and “Truth” especially.
However, I believe the main reason behind Nth Power’s quick rise to jam-band stardom is their key ingredient, secret sauce, or whatever you want to call his ridiculous bass playing, “The Head Counselor” Nate Edgar. Edgar is flat-out funky as fuck. There is no other way for me to really say it, as the guy can rip it on the bass guitar. Whether it’s leading the intro of “Freedom” or the outrageous bass play in “Right Now,” Edgar is a master of his craft and all should take note. I might be a bit bias as the bass guitar is in my opinion the key component to any awesome/successful band, but Edgar blows bias out the window with his skill, the knowledge of when to fill space, and a noteworthy combo with Glaspie on the drums. The rhythm section of The Nth Power could play with any band, any time, anywhere. Period. Thankfully we are lucky enough to have them combining their skills with Smith and Cassarino to form one of the more exciting young bands on our scene today.
A couple things I would provide as feedback: some of the tracking and vocals are a bit muddy in “Freedom” and the slower R&B songs such as “Home” don’t need to be on a live release. Also, after my count this release had 5 distinct genres of music being played with different tunes having gospel, rock, funk, R&B, and “Worldly” elements all being layered on top of each other. It can be a bit much at times, but after listening to the beautiful lyrics this band comes up such as, “Stand up and be a new piece of history,” or “Freedom is in the mind” I can deal with a bit of noise from time to time. Because as Cassarino says in “Right Now,” this song is about “Living in the moment” and that is for sure what The Nth Power is doing and accomplishing right now.