Playing from her soul

(Published August 9, 2006, 9:29 a.m.)

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

Just hanging out in a club, Nicolle Beckman blends into the crowd in an unassuming way. But when this woman takes the stage, she owns it both through her musical talent and her ability to lead any mixture of musicians she's performing alongside.

And when you hear her sing, you ask yourself, "We have talent like this right here in Walworth County? Wow."

Then add her second-to-none blurring sticks mastery of her drum kit and it knocks your socks off.

On Thursday, Aug. 17 Beckman is celebrating the release of her first CD, According to her Soul at 7 p.m. at the Butterfly Club, 5246 E. County Road X, Beloit.

According to her Soul features Beckman in all of her glory accompanied by members of her band, VIP, Timothy Brown and Dan Smelton, along with Keith Beckman, Timothy Brown, of Hladish and Brown, Glenn Davis, local bluesmaster, Gerry Hundt of Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, Dave Wood of Michael Coleman and the Backbreakers, and Mike Stone of Queensryche.

"There's lots of talent here to support me and my first effort," Beckman said. The eight cuts on the CD are songs that were favorites at Davis' open jams in the glory days of our local blues power hub, the Silver Moon.

Like the VIPs, who perform Fridays and Saturdays at the Butterfly Club at 7 p.m., the CD's genre is impossible to label. It's a bit of everything, she says.

But her favorite type of music to play is the blues. "I love performing blues because it gets the best sound out of my voice."

Beckman has been singing since she was only 6 years old, but the day a military band played at her school when she was 10 directed where her life's path would lead.

"I was so amazed and taken away," she said. "I really want to have at least one person have that same experience when I'm performing."

Beckman modestly says that it takes "tons of practice and great musicians with me," to make such excellent music, but be assured, this girl has everything it takes.

Onstage at a recent blues jam, she called out tune after tune and the band followed her lead. And when she belted out a tune, all eyes were on her and all ears filled with the sounds of her soulful voice as she put herself completely into the song.

Beckman and her husband, Keith, make a great musical couple. Keith plays bass guitar and runs his own recording studio, Trikk Bag Records, out of their Delavan home. She also teaches private drum, piano and voice lessons and they own and operate Beckman's Lawn Care.

Having their own recording studio just begged the project out of Beckman, which took her about a year to complete. She just wanted to see if she could do the whole project-writing, performing and recording her own CD.

"Testing my limits as usual," she said, adding that overall it was very different from performing for a live audience.

"(On stage) it's all off the cuff," she says. "I try to fit what we do to the audience sitting there. If we don't have certain people on stage with us it doesn't matter. When I'm the one in charge of making it happen it's my deal to make the song work.

"(But) in the studio, it's all scripted and written out to the last detail; I even put in beats per minute."

Overall, the most difficult aspects were "the challenge of trying different music, harder arrangements and working with other people," she said.

But not so much that she isn't already planning her next CD, which she plans on recording with Laura Stone, of Stone the Poet, and Pat Jones, two musicians who Beckman knows. Stone also designed Beckman's CD cover. More information on Stone can be found at www.stonethepoet.com.

Meanwhile, Beckman recently played for Jim Johnson's latest CD and often fills in for musicians recording at Trikk Bag who need a drummer and/or singer.

Beckman's CD, According to her Soul, will be available at the release party for $8 a CD or $10 for the CD package (CD, lyric book and window cling), at www.myspace.com/nikkibeckman, 117 Walnut St., Delavan, WI 53115, by sending $8 plus shipping via mail or PayPal or by e-mailing Beckman at beckman1@charter.net.

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