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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Acadiana's Valcour Records expands roster with Johnny Nicholas release

Johnny Nicholas (Photo: Audrey Billups)

Since 2006, Eunice, Louisiana-based Valcour Records has carved a respected niche as a boutique label presenting the exciting music of French Louisiana’s Acadiana region.

With Friday’s (Aug. 28) digital release of Johnny Nicholas’s new album Mistaken Identity, Valcour has now expanded its catalog to include its first non-Louisiana-based artist.

A Texas Hill Country-based blues and roots music singer-songwriter, Nicholas has spent a lot of time in Louisiana, Acadiana in particular.

“This album is a homecoming, bringing me back to the place where I cut my teeth and grew up musically on the prairies and bayou country of Southwest Louisiana in the ’70s,” says Nicholas. “Link Davis, Jr. [son of Cajun music legend ‘Papa’ Link Davis] brought me to Basile and introduced me to [fellow Cajun music legend] Nathan Abshire, who lived behind the Bear Cat Lounge on Highway 190.”

The Bear Cat figures prominently in Mistaken Identity track “Highway 190.”

“Back then,” Nicholas continues, “the Basile routine went something like this: Play music every night with Link, Nathan, and oftentimes [Cajun music great] Dewey Balfa--who worked at a furniture store nearby; pull some mattresses down off the wall in a room behind the bar and sleep; get up and walk back to Mr. Nathan and his wife Ola’s tiny house behind the club to drink coffee and visit; return to the Bear Cat where Jeanette Comeaux would be fixing rice and ‘something’; post up with Nathan out front and start drinking and playing music informally with anyone who stopped by--and then get ready for the evening’s show to start. Next day, same as the last and on and on—Honky-Tonk Heaven!”

Other songs on Mistaken Identity further showcase Nicholas’s diverse influences, ranging from blues to Tex-Mex, honky-tonk, country, rockabilly, and New Orleans R&B. All are Nicholas originals except “River Runs Deep,” by the late Stephen Bruton.

“It all started out with the blues for me,” says Nicholas. “Once that bug bit me, I was infected with a love of what is now called Americana or roots music. No matter what you call it, it all began with the blues and all of its musical manifestations.”

Nicholas’s own musical manifestations began after seeking out, via hitch-hiking and hopping freight trains, the artists and music he loved. He eventually toured internationally as a solo act and with such artists as of Big Walter Horton, Roosevelt Sykes, Robert Junior Lockwood, Snooky Pryor and Johnny Shines.

Formerly a mainstay at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, he also served in Austin’s renowned Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel from 1978 to 1981, and helped wife Brenda run the celebrated Hill Top Café--an old gas station and roadhouse in the Texas Hill Country.

Additionally, Nicholas released eight solo albums.

Mistaken Identity was produced by Valcour Records co-founder Joel Savoy and mostly recorded live at his studio in Eunice. It will be released on CD and vinyl on Oct. 2.

“It just seems to fit too perfectly to not include it in our catalog,” says Savoy.

"Mistaken Identity" featurette



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