Out of the ashes of New York’s soul group the Dansettes comes the Nouvellas. The Nouvellas formed in 2007, and its five members are all former Dansette members, which may account for their musical chemistry. The Nouvellas, however, while sharing the Dansettes soul-background, have opted for a bit more grit. The entire band is involved in the writing and arrangement of their songs, and they record their music live in a band member’s basement. In 2008 they released singles “Satisfied” and “Right Kind of Woman,” and in the following year, released their self-titled album Nouvellas, both on the label Ernest Jenning Record Co. In July 2012, they released a single entitled "Never Go Home."
When a lot of bands attempt to revive the soul music of the ‘60s, it’s usually of the elegant and lushly arranged Motown variety. Brooklyn’s Nouvellas do it a bit differently. With two high-powered singers out front and a stripped-down, three-piece backing band, the group aims for a rawer brand of R&B, the kind that reverberated from southern garages back in the glory days of Stax rather than the studios of Hitsville U.S.A.
After the breakup of the similarly minded Dansettes, five of that outfit’s seven members—singers Jaime Koryza and Leah Fishman, drummer Andrew Pierce, guitarist Dennis Pierce and bassist Justin Angelo Morey—formed the Nouvellas and decided to go even more gritty and minimalist. That sound is evident on the band’s self-titled debut. Kicking off with “Baby You Change Your Mind,” the elements are all there: funky guitars, strutting drums, fluid bass and the husky, powerhouse voices of Koryza and Fishman. Trading off lyrics deriding a fickle man, the pair alternate between Wanda Jackson’s full-throated screams and Aretha Franklin’s take-no-mess growls.
Sass dominates the album, particularly on songs like “Can’t Take It” and “Right Kind of Woman,” but the band knows how to get alluring, too: see the noir-ish ballad “These Days Are Gone” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” overlaid with mood-setting vibes. Pop-soul is in their vocabulary, too: “Come Back” is a well-studied ode to the Jackson 5, driven by a distinctly hummable melody.
And the reprise of “Right Kind of Woman,” which closes out the record, is a semi-acoustic rendering that has an airy, almost dub-like remix quality. It’s proof that soul doesn’t necessarily have to mean a set collection of mannerisms, but that if you know how to do those right and with damn-funky authenticity, you can play just about anything.