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Country - Released October 8, 2013 | Red Bow Records

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III

Country - Released January 1, 2005 | Show Dog Universal Music

Joe Nichols gets a little loose on his third major-label album, appropriately titled III, as evidenced by the very title of its first single, "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off." It's a silly name and would seem like a throwaway novelty, but it's not only genuinely funny, Nichols delivers it with sly humor and a low-key swagger that shows more character, as a vocalist, than he did on his previous albums. And that's the key to this album -- it's the first time that Nichols displays some genuine on-record personality that sets him apart from the Music City machine. While he still has a couple of generic numbers here, by and large the material is much stronger, bearing a harder country edge than the songs on his previous album, Revelation. Since Nichols has always had an appealing twang to his baritone, this harder country bent suits him well, particularly because it's not only present on straight-ahead country numbers like the two-step "Honky Tonk Girl" or Steve Earle's mournful "My Old Friend the Blues," Nichols also gives such softer, '70s-styled numbers like "Talk Me out of Tampa" a touch of grit, which is something he couldn't do on his previous albums. He's managed to steer away from the suburban country tract he was on and head back toward the country, which has made his music livelier and quite entertaining. Nichols still isn't a traditionalist on the level of his clear idol Alan Jackson -- the subjects, sound, and feel are more modern than traditional -- but he manages to strike a good balance of classic and contemporary here on III, which not only makes it his best album to date, but the first to suggest that he's carved out a distinctive niche for himself. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2002 | Show Dog Universal Music

From the looks of him -- long, unkempt hair and wrinkled jeans jacket over a black T-shirt -- on the cover of his major-label debut, Man with a Memory, you might expect that Joe Nichols aspires to be the next Kris Kristofferson-style Nashville rebel. Appearances can be deceiving, however. Nichols may look like a slacker, but if his music were accurately represented in his coiffure and wardrobe, he'd have razor-cut, blown-dry locks tucked under a cowboy hat. Vocally, he sounds like Alan Jackson trying to make like George Jones, and he sings formula Nashville country songs played by the usual suspects among Music City's session players. The album's lead single, typically released months ahead of the album and slowly climbing the charts when it appeared, is "The Impossible," an unfortunate piece of confused country philosophy about how supposedly impossible things happen. In the first verse, the narrator's apparently invincible father turns out to be able to feel pain after all; in the second a paralyzed friend learns to walk. The unfortunate part is that the chorus inescapably evokes September 11 ("Sometimes the things you think would never happen/Happen just like that"), which is in very bad taste, especially when the song comes to its real point, as the narrator concludes that maybe his girlfriend will come back. Most of the other songs range from barroom weepers ("She Only Smokes When She Drinks" is a virtual rewrite of the John Anderson hit "Straight Tequila Night") to bland expressions of romantic devotion. Tom T. Hall's "Life Don't Have to Mean Nothing at All" is a welcome respite from the mediocrity, but it's only one song. Nichols may make it to country stardom, especially if he cleans up his appearance, but his first major-label effort doesn't make that an appealing prospect. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Country - Released August 31, 2018 | Broken Bow Records

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Country - Released August 21, 2007 | Show Dog Universal Music

Joe Nichols finally had a big hit with his 2005 album III, released nearly a decade after his first independent records. III found Nichols loosening up a bit, delivering the very funny "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" which was also a strong song outside its quips, strong enough to become a genuine pop Top 40 hit after it topped the country charts. Such success can be hard to follow, and for his 2007 follow-up Real Things, Nichols does beat a bit of retreat, deciding not to expand upon that slyly rowdy hit but instead returning to the ballads that served him well for his first two records. He still kicks up the tempo on occasion -- most notably on "Let's Get Drunk and Fight," a sequel to "Tequila" that's nearly as laugh-out-loud funny, but also on the speedy "Comin' Back in a Cadillac," a tune that's more traditionally country-rockin' yet also on the anthemic "It Ain't No Crime" -- but by and large Real Things is a gentler affair, reminiscent of his second album, Revelation. However, there is a difference here: that record often seemed to cruise by on Music City gloss where Real Things digs deep, sounding deeply felt no matter how smooth it gets. Or no matter how sappy it gets, either, since there are several songs that flirt with being just a bit too emotional, whether it's the nostalgia of the title track or the autobiography of "Ain't Nobody Gonna Take That from Me." What saves these songs is the warmth of the production and, above all, the richness of Nichols' singing. He can find the truth in a cliché and is compelling even in the quietest moments, of which there are many here. Real Things is an album designed for contemplation or relaxation, and it works as both, sliding into the background or rewarding close listening. Some may wish that Nichols partied a little harder in the wake of "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," but even those naysayers will likely find this to be his most consistent album to date -- and those who prefer his smooth, comforting voice to his taste in traditional country may indeed find this to be his best album as well. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released October 8, 2013 | Red Bow Records

Amiable guy that he is, Joe Nichols adapts easily to a new surrounding -- and 2013's Crickets certainly does place the neo-traditionalist country singer in a new setting. A devotee of the Haggard/Travis/Jackson school, Nichols is savvy enough to realize that this kind of deeply felt country no longer really sells in 2013, so he treats his first album for Red Bow as an opportunity to reposition himself as a modern kind of guy, the kind who not only knows about iPods and chatrooms but will sing about them too. All of Crickets is peppered with these kind of off-hand references to the modern world, but Nichols' true tell is the bright, affable sound of the record, how it finds a cozy middle ground between his burnished signature and the hyper-stylized, over-sized country of new millennial sports bars. Usually, Nichols seems at ease with the easy-rolling tunes -- "Better Than Beautiful" is a sweet ballad that could've fit into the Urban Cowboy era -- but when the tempo is perky without being sprightly, the production crisp without gleaming, he sounds chipper and affable too, as on "Hard to Be Cool" and "Sunny and 75." So much of the success of Crickets depends upon Nichols' inherent likability -- a crutch he's relied on before, when the traditionalist well started to run dry -- and in this irrepressibly cheery context this nice-guy attitude is no doubt an asset, as it gives the slickness humility. But no matter how well Joe Nichols wears these new clothes, all it takes is a smooth, understated cover of Merle Haggard's "Footlights" to remind us that his true strengths are rooted in the past, not the present. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released October 12, 2009 | Show Dog Universal Music

Turning old things into something new is a key part of the job description of a country singer like Joe Nichols, and he does a slick job of it on Old Things New, his fifth major-label album. Nichols has a fondness for all things classic country -- songs both sad and funny about drinking, songs about love won and lost, songs about small-town girls and hometowns, all fueled by sawing fiddles, steel guitars, and twanging Telecasters. There's a big difference between a traditionalist and someone who follows tradition, and Nichols belongs in the latter camp, less concerned with the past than the present, admitting that booze is cheaper than a shrink, happily sliding into power-ballad mode on the slower songs. Those rock influences -- not just on bombastic ballads, but on the sweet, swaying soft rock of "Man, Woman" -- are more prominent here than before, but the music is always grounded in Nichols' warm, supple voice, the thing that keeps Old Things New in a country tradition even when the production strays off course. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released July 28, 2017 | Red Bow Records

The headline-grabbing gimmick on Never Gets Old, Joe Nichols' eighth studio album, is a countrified cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 booty classic "Baby Got Back." The fact that Nichols brings in country comedian Darren Knight to perform a riff as his Southern Momma character is a giveaway that Nichols doesn't take this track too seriously -- and the fact that he can't be bothered to find a way to get this to work beyond eight lines from the original is a telltale sign that he didn't work too hard on it -- but it nevertheless captures his considerable charm and skill. From the outset, Nichols distinguished himself by balancing traditional country with modern concerns, a sensibility that's mellowed into the easy touch he shows on Never Gets Old. In tone and sound, the 2017 record is a sequel to 2013's Crickets -- it even contains a new version of that album's "Billy Graham's Bible" -- but that only signals how Nichols is beginning to settle into a relaxed middle age. He's not one to rush the tempo -- when things get quicker, as they do on the jangling "So You're Saying" and a version of Dierks Bentley's "Diamonds Make Babies," he just brings it toward adult-oriented crossover pop -- but he's also too young to rely only on old ways. Sometimes this manifests in a track with a distinctively modern bent, like "Tall Boys," which is fueled by a rhythmic R&B loop, but it usually amounts to Nichols sounding nimble and connected. Few country singers would sound as believable singing about Tom Petty and Appletinis as Nichols does here. He's an old-fashioned guy who is happy living in the modern world, and that's why Never Gets Old is so appealing: It feels familiar yet fresh. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released November 8, 2011 | Show Dog Universal Music

Strangely, it’s possible to take Joe Nichols’ unassuming album titles to heart. He celebrated Real Things in 2007, found Old Things New in 2009, and now, two years later and after his first greatest-hits collection, he’s decided that It’s All Good and this, his sixth major-label effort, certainly does roll along on his casual charm. Nichols never pushes hard and that easy touch is winning, particularly when the guitars are cranked, pushing the album close to rocking country. His roots may run a little deeper than modern country -- he effectively channels George Jones on the title track, never once seeming forced -- but the key to Nichols' appeal is that he’s a thoroughly modern guy who has an old-school attitude, and that swagger keeps his ballads from being too saccharine, his poppier numbers from being too sweet. Perhaps he could stand to have some knockout singles and perhaps he’s a little too comfortable giving the people what they want, but Nichols is always reliable, always likable, and this album is definitely all good. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released February 14, 2011 | Humphead Records

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Country - Released August 31, 2018 | Broken Bow Records

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Country - Released July 6, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released June 1, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released May 4, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released March 9, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released March 9, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released September 18, 2015 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released August 3, 2018 | Broken Bow Records

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Country - Released September 18, 2015 | Red Bow Records

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Country - Released May 4, 2018 | Red Bow Records

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