With the release of The Love You Bleed, Danielle Nicole’s career continues to soar. Her previous album was nominated for a Grammy and topped the Billboard blues chart, and this current CD — her third since becoming a solo artist — has hit number one on the Billboard, iTunes and Amazon blues charts. As well as her potent vocals, Nicole plays bass and wrote or co-wrote all but one song on this album. Backing Nicole are guitarist Brandon Miller, Damon Parker on keyboards, drummer Go-Go Ray and Stevie Blacke supplying violin and cello. The theme threaded throughout is love amid pain.

“Love on My Brain” is a scorcher that sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s a propulsive, steamy number expressing the ambivalence of love that’s an ideal demonstration of Nicole’s vocal prowess. Her voice intensifies from smouldering lust to impassioned cries, interspersed with smoking guitar. There’s a retro flavour to “Make Love,” a song about constantly nourishing one’s love for friends and family regardless of your own hurt. Nicole shifts gears in “Right By Your Side,” displaying the depths of her desire through soulful vocals, squeezing each tear of emotion out of her vow to hold on tight to love. “How Did We Get to Goodbye” is a captivating heartbreaker concerning a precious love that is inexplicably dying.

Nicole perfectly portrays the wail of a mother’s anguish in “Head Down Low.” There’s a haunting ambience to the music as she sings of a rebellious young man confronting the harsh realities of life away from home. “Fireproof” also describes unrealized expectations, in this case the depiction of an adolescent relationship that doesn’t survive adulthood, the angst reflected in Brandon Miller’s incendiary guitar. 

Miller’s acoustic guitar is the sole accompaniment to “A Lover Is Forever,” the only song not written by Nicole. It’s a pensive proclamation that it’s true love, not necessarily marriage, that endures. She remains in a contemplative mood with the ballad “Say You’ll Stay,” supported by strings and organ, with Miller’s pedal steel guitar sliding in as an extension of her exquisite vocals. Her voice is exhilarating atop the heavily rhythmic “Fool’s Gold,” about one whose promises are worthless.

Her vocals again take wing in the rocker “Walk on By,” dramatized by searing guitar, a warning against seeing the world on merely a superficial level. Nicole wrote “Who He Thinks You Are” about her older son, and the importance of nurturing love and never neglecting it, her voice transcendent as she conveys a mother’s devotion. Concluding the CD, “Young Love on the Hill” is a delightful song of cherished memories, with elegant acoustic accompaniment.

In The Love You Bleed, Danielle Nicole wrings every drop of passion from her music, with superb vocals that showcase her versatility, not only in the album as a whole, but often within each track. A gifted songwriter, Nicole has crafted lyrics that speak of love in the face of loss, while her voice declares it all with profound feeling and extraordinary talent.

Sandra B. Tooze