On Friday night, folk songstress extraordinaire Nicolette Good, one of San Antonio's strongest young talents, will present her sophomore album, Little Boat on a Wave. The album, which follows up Good's exquisite and widely-lauded 2012 release Monarch, is a breezy yet thoroughly engaging Americana gem.
On Little Boat, Good casts off with a confident and deliberate stride, her vocal delivery and her songwriting prowess now even sharper and more nuanced than before. Eschewing distracting production polish and laborious language, Good's approach on this effort is hallmarked by the powerful kind of simplicity that comes with artistic maturity.
The album's title track is, for my money, Good's finest song to date, taking on the reverent spirit of an underdog prayer without ever coming off as hokey. Meanwhile, the island-flavored "Aloha" is easily the most fun she's had on a record. But I'm getting ahead of myself — before you get to know the Little Boat, you'll want to appreciate the waters it's had to navigate.
First, it bears noting that most songs on the new album were written, finished or inspired during a residency at The Lighthouse Works in New York State. The residency program, which in Good's case took place in November and December of 2013, is held on the remote and beautiful Fisher's Island and is designed to give promising artists the solitude and support necessary to take their craft to the next level.
Good, 30, told the San Antonio Current in a phone interview that the experience was "a chance to test out the question: what would it be like to do music 24 hours a day?" In her purposeful isolation she realized that she is "the same songwriter here as [she] was there."
She continued: "I mean, going away, traveling can be inspiring, but it's not a cure all. The same demons and hang-ups and quirks follow me everywhere I go."
Returning from her residency, Good took her time before beginning work on Little Boat with Joe Reyes (Buttercup, Mitch Webb and The Swindles) in April 2014. Of her decision to record in Reyes' home studio, rather than return to Austin's Ramble Creek where she recorded Monarch, Good explained that she "wanted this album to feel more natural and organic, like one of [her] live shows." While she's proud of Monarch — with good reason — she felt that it was "more affected and produced than some of these songs warranted."
It was December 2014, while she was beginning initial album release plans and touring in Texas, that Good hit turbulent tides. After becoming extremely ill at a few tour stops, Good was treated for what doctors believed to be a sinus infection. In the following weeks, her headache persisted and she began to experience strange feelings under her scalp. She went to the emergency room with a "ridiculously high fever" and a "violent headache" twice during the week of Christmas before doctors finally diagnosed her with a rare brain infection.
"I spent the next twelve days in the hospital and even after that it took weeks for me to be able to walk and shower and perform normal tasks. My mom essentially had to be by my side the whole time," she said. "Then, just as I was starting to feel better, new symptoms cropped up and I went back to the ER. It turned out I had an abscess in my brain."
On April 22, Good went back in for one final operation (that's three if you're keeping count), this time to fix a lingering hole in her scalp that was "a little too big for [her] liking." Today, she's ready to present her album, which now seems thematically prescient in an uncanny way.
Of the album's hopeful title song, Good told the Current: "Even though [she] wrote it beforehand, it kind of became an anthem for that whole experience."
She added: "It's great because every time I play it live, people come up to me and seem to relate. It's not necessarily a religious song, but I've had people tell me it feels like a prayer. I've even had people send me their own prayers. It's wonderful because those deep connections to the audience are the reason I write and play music. The song definitely seemed to portend the kind of outlook I would need."
Free, 9pm Fri, May 15, Rosella Coffee Co., 203 E. Jones St., (210) 277-8574, rosellacoffee.com
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