By Carl Begai
The long- awaited and oft-delayed third album from German singer / songwriter Cynthia Nickschas is exactly what and ultimately more than what the fans expected. Truth be told, as gut-wrenching as it is for any artist to be forced to wait to unveil new work, the pandemic and dealing with assorted life-related curveballs seems to have worked in Cynthia’s favour. And the fact this is her first record to truly be billed as “Cynthia Nickschas & Friends” – the moniker she has played under for years – speaks volumes as to the creative energy that went into this record.
It definitely shows, 200%.
Cynthia’s acoustic-based, big band stage sound made a flawless transition to the studio for Is’ Halt So!, delivering her trademark jazz / blues / folk compositions with a live-off-the-floor warmth that a lot of records released in 2022 don’t have. Every instrument can be heard (saxophone, trumpet, violin, acoustic and electric guitars), everyone gets to shine even though Cynthia is the intended star of the show. The fact that many of these songs have been performed live for the last couple years (when that sort of thing was allowed) enabled Cynthia & Friends to arrange and refine them to the level we hear in recorded form.
As with each of her releases, standout tracks will depend on personal taste, and quite possibly how good or bad your day was. At the time of this writing the up-tempo “Nich’ Auf Die Hören”, the violin-powered ska-peppered lounge special “Muster”, and the waltz of “Stock Im Arsch” are stuck in the brain, as is the groove of the darkling “Menschenhass” (gotta love her smoke-and-whiskey voice in full form). It’s great to hear that “Wenn Ich Das Könnte” made the final cut, showing off Cynthia’s guitar and songwriting skills, and the tender side of her voice. “Alleine” is a fun listen in spite of the lyrics being thoughtful and deep, and is easily one of the most inventive songs on the record. Closing track “Uns Macht Musik” is a beautiful way to end Is’ Halt So! and would not have the impact it does if it was placed anywhere else in the tracklist. And through it all, the Friends shine through as a unit, large and loud. They should be proud.
It has to be said (again) that folks who don’t understand German are ultimately missing out on a key ingredient, as Cynthia’s lyrics are intelligent and grounded in real life, as she sings about social issues, offers advice, comments on relationships and situations, and celebrates the joy of making music. And the wordplay she uses to make her points are often unpredictable and amusing next-level talent. Not understanding the language is by no means detrimental to enjoying the record, however. Is’ Halt So! is proof that music is the universal language, particularly when it’s delivered like this.
There are a couple surprises that I’d love to reveal…. but no. All I can say is, listen carefully, pay attention, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Release date: December 8th, 2022
Go to the official Cynthia Nickschas & Friends website here: https://www.cynthiaandfriends.de/