Hot Spell: Bluesdays bound Danielle Nicole rises to top

Kurt Johnson / Tahoe Onstage
Danielle Nicole won her third and fourth BMA on Thursday, including Contemporary Blues Female Artist.
Kurt Johnson / Tahoe Onstage

Bluesdays bound Danielle Nicole was named 2019’s best Contemporary Blues Female Artist at the Blues Foundation Blue Music Awards in Memphis, along with best Instrumentalist Bass. Earlier in the year, she received a Grammy nomination for her second solo album, “Cry No More.”

“It’s been an insane journey in a short amount of time,” Danielle Nicole told Tahoe Onstage the day after the BMAs in May.

“I never was nominated as Female Artist before and I wasn’t expecting to receive any of the awards with the amazing list of people that were up, so I was totally humbled.”

She is among three 2019 BMA recipients who appear at this summer’s Tuesday Bluesdays at Squaw Valley, California. Sugaray Rayford was named the top Soul Blues Male Artist and Vanessa Collier won for Instrumentalist Horn.

“(Bluesdays fans) are in for a treat with those artists,” Danielle Nicole said. “Vanessa is a multi-instrumentalist and everything about her is absolutely beautiful: Her personality, the way she connects to the audience, her tone, her attack. It’s hard not to get captivated by her playing and her intimacy. She’s such a young talent who has a bright future ahead.

“Sugaray Rayford is a force of nature. I’ve been able to be on a few shows with him. He is a blues machine. His show is amazing and he’s a great performer.”

While Daniele Nicole’s solo career is making a fast ascent, she has been on blues fans’ radar for a while. Her family band, Trampled Under Foot, with brothers Nick (guitar) and Kris (drums) Schnebelen won the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in 2007.

The trio from Kansas City released five albums, including “Badlands,” which won the BMA for 2014 Contemporary Blues Album. Shortly afterward, the siblings ended the group.

“We had our time together with Trampled Under Foot and it was just natural,” she said.

In 2015, she released a highly acclaimed solo album, “Wolf Den,” which was straight-ahead blues in style. Produced by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars,“Wolf Den” was named Blues Album of the Year by Blues & Soul Magazine and selected New Artist Debut Album by Blues Blast Magazine.

“I always search out great singers to work with, like John Hiatt, Mavis Staples, Patty Griffin, Chris Robinson,” Dickinson said. “You really have to have a great singer to take music to a place where we all want to go.”

Afterward, Dickinson recruited Danielle Nicole to join he and his brother Cody in the North Mississippi Allstars for a year. “She’s a superstar,” he said.

Danielle Nicole
Danielle Nicole’s “Cry No More” is released on Concord Records.

Her follow-up album, “Cry No More,” debuted in February 2018 at No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues chart. It ranges from blues to rock to pop. It received a Grammy Award nomination.

“That was definitely an affirmation,” she said. “It was really cool to know that people on that level are not only aware of my music, they dig it.

“Every transition has been drastically different in the last couple of years. We’ve had a great last few months I am getting a new sound going on. I am getting ready to get back in the studio again and I’m excited about that. It’s always great to be moving and always be fluid and different and not get stagnant.”

By the looks of her itinerary, it’s a surprise the word stagnant is even in Danielle Nicole’s vocabulary. Her trio (guitarist Brandon Miller, drummer Ralph Forrest) just completed a whirlwind tour in April and begins a string of appearances in Europe, including festivals in Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, in June. United States summer festivals include Lighthouse, Kalamazoo, Heritage, Chernango and Ann Arbor.

Daniel Nicole was the first female to receive a BMA nomination for Instrumentalist Bass. She’s won the honor two of the three times she’s been nominated. She now has four BMAs, including one she received with Trampled Under Foot.

— Tim Parsons

Related story: Album review — Danielle Nicole’s “Cry No More.”

  • Bluesdays
    6 -8:30 p.m. Tuesdays
    The Village at Squaw Valley
    June 11 — The Blues Monsters
    June 18 — Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings
    June 25 — Vanessa Collier
    July 2 —  Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Rusty Zinn
    July 9 — Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
    July 16 — Danielle Nicole
    July 23 — Coco Montoya
    July 30 — Chris Cain
    Aug. 6 — Sugar Ray Rayford
    Aug. 13  — Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers
    Aug. 20 — Dennis Jones Band
    Aug. 27 — Honey Island Swamp Band
    Sept. 3 — Popa Chubby
  • Blues Foundation’s 2019 Blues Music Awards
  1. Acoustic Album: Journeys to the Heart of the Blues – Joe Louis Walker/Bruce Katz/Giles Robson
    2. Acoustic Artist: Rory Block
    3. Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
    4. B.B. King Entertainer: Michael Ledbetter
    5. Band: Welch-Ledbetter Connection
    6. Best Emerging Artist Album: Free – Amanda Fish
    7. Blues Rock Album: The Big Bad Blues – Billy F Gibbons
    8. Blues Rock Artist: Eric Gales
    9. Contemporary Blues Album: America’s Child – Shemekia Copeland
    10. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Danielle Nicole
    11. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Kenny Neal
    12. Instrumentalist-Bass: Danielle Nicole
    13. Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside
    14. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Monster Mike Welch
    15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Dennis Gruenling
    16. Instrumentalist-Horn: Vanessa Collier
    17. Instrumentalist- Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Marcia Ball
    18. Instrumentalist-Vocals: Michael Ledbetter
    19. Song: “No Mercy In This Land” Written By Ben Harper and Performed by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
    20. Soul Blues Album: I’m Still Around – Johnny Rawls
    21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Annika Chambers
    22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Sugaray Rayford
    23. Traditional Blues Album: The Blues is Alive and Well – Buddy Guy
    24. Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Blues Female Artist: Ruthie Foster
    25. Traditional Blues Male Artist: Nick Moss

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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