Spotlight

St. Louis, Missouri

Aug. 24 – Sept. 6, 1989

 

“Face to Face with the Brothers Nace”

By Mike Kuelker

 

The first unusual thing you notice about the Nace Brothers’ live act is their “look”:  Dave Nace, the lead vocalist, plays behind a stand-up drum kit forestage.  What’s more, it is a left-handed set with a right-handed high hat.

 

Dave Nace says he would rather have the gawks now than the puzzled tares before he made the change from sit-down to stand-up.

 

“I do a majority of the lead vocals, and I was completely covered by drums,” he says.  “People were wondering who was singing.”

 

The Warrensburg, MO band – Dave Nace (drums, lead vocals), his brother Jim Nace (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Tim Williams (bass, vocals) and Bart Colliver (keyboards, acoustic guitar, vocals) – has more to offer than its visual novelty, of course.  They are at a turning point in establishing a beachhead in St. Louis, concluding  a summer-long engagement at Bogie’s on Laclede’s Landing.

 

The band does not want to burn any bridges, but the Landing, members discovered, is not the easiest place for a regional band to build a following.  Although no one in the band will say an unkind word about the audiences or club owners – who they say they enjoy working with – it is no secret that the Landing’s clientele can be transient and fickle.

 

“We’ve been together for eight years,” Dave says.  “There’s a tightness you acquire in that time that takes a certain audience to recognize.”

 

“We’d like to play a club where we can bring the same people back,” Jim adds.

 

The Nace Brothers dip into a wide range of styles for their repertoire, playing anything from classic rock, new rock and soul to rockabilly, blues and various hyphenised hybrids.  Like many bands, they are obliged to do so in order to make a living.  But a rich background contributes an authenticity to their eclectic song list.

 

Dave and Jimmy Nace are sons of Johnny Nace, a famed Midwest guitarist, whose musical influence they readily acknowledge.

 

“We just grew up with it and started at an early age,” Dave says.  “Jimmy played bass, and we were the rhythm section for dad’s group for four years.

 

“When I was growing up, I was influenced mainly by country music,: he explained.  “Then, I went through a period where I was anti-country and I thought soul was the greatest.  But then I got turned onto the blues and it was a whole nw thing.”

 

The Nace Brothers may be at their best and most distinctive, in fact, when they are at their lowdown and bluesiest.  On “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” Jim Nace’s guitar restrained on the verse and chorus, soars during the lead break – accenting textbook patterns and expressive runs.  Jim also contributes a raucous harmonica to the group’s sound, particularly on “Mustang Sally.”

 

The Band’s inventive approach rescues “Let It Rock: from its all-too-familiar progression.  Dave Nace sacrifices some of the chaotic thump and wham of Ginger Baker’s drumming on “Badge” but compensates quite nicely with a commanding, gritty vocal style – especially on the next number, “Strange Brew.”  The aggressive vocals turn the latter from a psychedelic standard into a blues-rock- chugger.

 

During their continual barnstorming of Midwest clubs between Kansas and Indiana, the Nace Brothers have shared the stage with such acts as the Guess Who, the Rainmakers, Al Stewart and Jerry Jeff Walker.  And – certainly a nice coup for the band – they played Jimmy Buffett’s nightclub, Margaritaville, in (where else?) Key West, Florida in mid-August.

 

Between gigs, the band has finished studio work on an EP cassette recorded in Kansas City.  The all-original EP features “Life Goes On: (“…a modern Motown sound,” Dave says), “Roll Baby Roll,” “Feel It” and the slide guitar-infected “She Wants Another Man.  Jim Nace is the songwriter – “…with constructive criticism from me, add older brother Dave with a laugh.

 

The band anticipates a late September release for the EP and hopes to entice the attention of a major label.  In the meantime, the band members will do what they do best:  tour themselves silly and play their songs their own way.

 

“For a while we were wandering around in search of a style,” Dave says.  “We like to find stuff that’s not too much mainstream.  We grew up with songs like ‘Strange Brew’ and ‘Fortunate Son.’  That’s the music that was happening – and we still like it.

 

“You stifle yourself by worrying if you sound enough like the radio.”

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