Right away, the tone is set. “Come on over to my yard, sit around and let your troubles all disappear,” beckons Jeb Loy Nichols on the lead track of his new CD. His songs never break a sweat, and their comforts are as inviting as an empty hammock on a lazy day. Nichols filled up his bag of tricks in London, where pop musicians routinely mimic soul and reggae styles. Yet Nichols isn’t British; he’s a nomad from Wyoming who was a student at Austin’s Westlake High School. And he’s not mimicking. His music roils smatterings of soul, hip-hop, reggae, and country into a light, distinct mixture. Part of the credit goes to his producers, who make smart choices. Though the lyrics get sugary, there is only one outright dud (the Firestone disco retread “Trying to Get Over”). Nichols’ voice, so rich that it sounds as though he’s singing a chord, rescues most everything; he purrs his way through the album like it’s Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (it isn’t). Maybe Nichols wouldn’t get away with singing a road atlas, but he’s undoubtedly a guy who knows his way around.
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