Andrew Justin

Reckoning, the debut album by Andrew Justin Nicoletta, is a musical and lyrical triumph, a collection of healing songs for troubled times that marks the end of a challenging artistic and personal journey. Its not a pretty pop acoustic record, Nicoletta says. Its made in shades of blue, but its full of yearning for the light. Theres a lot of sorrow in it, but it's not complaining, its explaining reality. Theres optimism in every song. Reckoning created an immediate buzz on PureVolume, The song 'Melody In The Mist' shot to #6 on the sites Top Ten list, no mean feat considering the database includes more than five million songs. 'Where Do We Go', spent two weeks in the top ten, peacking at # 3. The title track, 'Reckoning' did the same, getting close to 1,000 spins a day. All this without any hype or promotion; Reckoning hasnt even been officially released yet. 'The Letter', the critically acclaimed protest songs, is currently number 18, and on its way to giving Nicoletta four top ten songs on Pure Volume in 3 months.

Nicoletta has been writing lyrics, stories and poems all his life, but the songs that make up Reckoning began coming together in a creative fervor about two years ago. I havent played many live gigs, but I felt these songs were important, Nicoletta says. I decided to risk everything and make a record. Working 18 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, both in the studio and at his day job, Nicoletta hooked up with producer Steve Rizzo (Cheryl Wheeler, Kristin Hirsch, Belly, Duke Robillard) and began putting together the songs for Reckoning.

Steve is a perfectionist, Nicoletta says. If something wasnt right, hed make me do it again. It was my first time in a studio and I learned how to record as we worked together. I play all the guitar parts, he did the drums, bass, percussion and most of the keyboards. Reckoning took a year to make, and you can hear the effort in the sharp production that gives every track its own individual character.

Melody In The Mist, is a song about the love that remains even after the break up. Rizzos sanctified organ fills, understated drumming and backing vocals full of yearning and undisguised torment support Nicolettas plaintive vocal delivery and sparse acoustic guitar. Love has the power to see through the lies and deception and still endure, Nicoletta explains. The guy singing the song is about to fall apart, but the big picture is optimistic. The basic track of the poignant Isabella, dedicated to the artists daughter, was done in one take, including Nocolettas long, inventive electric guitar solo. The multi-layered guitar overdubs give the track a wide-open, atmospheric aura.

Where Do We Go has a classic folk-rock feel, with a touch of psychedelia on the side. Rizzos shimmering organ and Nicolettas minimal acoustic strumming are complimented by an experimental vocal interlude that coveys the fragmented inner dialogue of a confused mind. This one was composed in the studio, another one take track, no edits, Nocoletta says. I had about 12 verses written with no music, but when we started rolling, it wrote itself. On the bridge, Steves reading from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead and Im reading from The Beatles Session Book and the last thing that pops out of the mix is Tomorrow Never Knows. The tune is getting a huge reaction on PureVolume.

The easy rocking Reckoning gives a joyful goodbye kiss to a bad relationship and showcases Nicolettas assertive vocals and slide guitar work. Shine A Light offers a quick snapshot of the people that the American dream has passed by. The rousing chorus and Rizzos soulful, Gospel influenced organ balances the darkness of the verses. Life can be brutal, but its beautiful too, Nicoletta says. This record is about the conflict between darkness and light and this song celebrates the beauty behind the struggle. The Letter Didnt Look Like The Rest is a straightforward protest song, lamenting the passing of an idealistic young woman in a senseless war. Nicolettas anguished vocal, David Keys funereal flute and the swirling, processed guitars make it one of the albums most affecting tracks. Its not anti-American, but pro-humanity, Nicoletta says forcefully. Its a prayer for the mothers and daughters and families that have given so much in hopes of making the world a better place.

Reckoning is deeply personal, a record that faces lifes often difficult realities without flinching or falling back on false optimism. Nicolettas well-constructed, multi-level guitar parts, emotive singing and superior songwriting find a perfect compliment in Steve Rizzos organic production technique, creating an album thats as complex and universal as life itself.

Andrew Justin Nicoletta was born on January 20, 1973 in Suffern, New York and raised in Mahwah, New Jersey and Manhattan. I always wanted to play guitar and write songs, Nicoletta recalls. But being an artist in my family was like going to the moon. It wasnt an option. Nicolettas dad was not a musician, but a huge music fan and exposed him the Stones, Beatles, Marvin Gaye, The Who, Grand Funk, Sly and The Family Stone, Dylan and the great protest singers of the 60s. Nicoletta was soon writing short stories and lyrics and dreaming about becoming a songwriter, but ran into one big roadblock. I couldnt find a teacher who would take me on because I was left-handed. It was frustrating because I wanted to be a musician, but the world I grew up in resisted the idea. My friends and family had no interest in my musical ambitions.

Nicoletta put his dreams on hold, but the frustration he felt took a toll. The 20s were my lost years. There was a lot of self-destructive behavior, bad relationships and substance abuse. I was a mess. I still am today, but now Im a controlled mess, Nicoletta says with a self-conscious laugh. He finally picked up a guitar while he was a student at Colgate University. I realized I didnt have a choice. I had to do this. I taught myself folk guitar, backwards, sitting in my dorm room and playing for friends.

About five years ago, Nicoletta turned things around. He got into rehab, got married, had a daughter and restrung his guitar to accommodate a lefty. He began building his chops. Having my daughter, Isabella Marley Nicoletta (her middle name is inspired by Bob Marley,) and the music kept me from going off the deep end. In the last five years Nicolettas worked hard, honing his songwriting and playing select gigs to showcase his material. He had a left hand Martin D-41 made for himself and also plays a 78 Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Hummingbird strung backwards.

Since completing Reckoning, which is dedicated to his daughter Isabella, Nicoletta has been writing songs for his next album and rehearsing for the solo acoustic tour he will do to support its official release. Steve and I dedicated a year of our lives to making this record. I think we created a masterpiece. Now I have to get out and promote it.

I just take it one day at a time. Ive made mistakes and have a lot of things I have to pay for, but music and songwriting have saved my life. Making this album wasnt about me, it was about getting the music out there. Ive already had my songs downloaded tens of thousands of times throughout the internet on sites I've never heard of. For a new indie artist you cant ask for more than that. As I say on the website, Please pass the music on....