No wonder you turned out in droves to vote in Nicolette Good as this year’s best singer-songwriter. Her voice is pure ear candy. It’s an ethereal thing, one part smoky youth, another part fluorescent wisdom, a dream you just woke up from and are dying to remember. I learned this seeing her perform at Casbeers one chilly Saturday night during the Melissa Ludwig Band CD release party. Good took the stage with her acoustic, her voice, and her sideman Jesse Basham on electric. She filled the church with smoldering alt-country balladry and worked the crowd like it was improv night.
“I owe Houston and I-10 a lot of material,” she said. “This song is called ‘The Mechanic.’ It’s not one you want to play in front of your mother, so thank God she’s busy tonight!”
The next day, Good and I connected “Mechanic” to other pudendal songs of yore (like “Pink Cadillac” and “Little Red Corvette”) on a Starbucks patio. For her, “Mechanic” is a tribute to Alberta Hunter’s campy, bluesy “My Handy Man,” a cornucopia of hilarious sex euphemisms. (ed. Note: We highly recommend you google Hunter’s 1981 performance; it’s adorable and raunchy all at once.)
Then she shifted gears and, by her lonesome, Good played me “Marathon,” inadvertently revealing in her work something most country pickers lack: subtext. The tune is a love letter from a woman to a man, whose mostly pure message is sullied by the song’s eerie chord phrasing. It’s Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” run off the road and wrapped around a tree, in the style of Good’s more contemporary musical idols, Gillian Welch and Neko Case.
Good appears at ease behind the guitar, whether onstage or in a corporate coffeeshop, unfurling double entendres and complicated emotional stories. Stop the music, and Good readily admits it’s harder for her to connect. She says she’s never really been comfortable in social situations, even if the stage is one place where she excels. She’s battled panic attacks for a few years now.
“The first major one was in college,” she said. “I was interviewing for a position on `Trinity’s` literary magazine `The Trinity Review`. It was like this; I met the people in a coffeeshop and that was intense.”
And yet, Good has spent the year pursuing one new venture after another. This year, she put out a Craigslist ad to start a band. She registered her music with BMI and attended the 11th Annual Southwest Regional Folk Alliance Conference, taking pointers from fellow Texas folkie Terri Hendrix. She even scored an eight-minute set between talks at the TEDx San Antonio conference.
On her blog, Good described herself as “righteously indignant” about the general toil of the music business, in addition to the nerve-frying networking. With Good, Kanye-style venting sessions are generally followed by self-analysis and cognitive behavioral therapy.
“Your talents and charms make our gods weep a tidal wave of poetry,” she blogged to herself recently, after listing all of her recent accomplishments in another post to boost her ego.
The constant self-coaching, regular social discomfort, and industry hustle are paying off. Good writes a song almost every week, and she’ll ring in the New Year at a show with punk-y-roll stalwarts Piñata Protest and accordion legend Flaco Jimenez. It’s all for the craft, she said.
“Who needs drugs when you have live music?” she asked. “Not that I’ve ever smoked pot, `because` if I did, I’m pretty sure I’d get a panic attack.” •