Alex Nester - Rattle the Walls (2009)

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    There are many skilled vocalists who have the right ingredients: proper technique, lung power, and perfect pitch.  Yet even those admirable attributes sometimes can not replace heart, soul, and a natural ability to deliver the goods in several genres.  Two artists who have delivered the goods over the past few years are Cristina Aguilera and Joss Stone, each of whom first won audiences as teenage phenomenons and still maintains that soulful, gutsy fire with every note she sings.  Many faithful music fans can now add twenty-four year old Alex Nester to that list.  She may have not been the household name during her teenage years like Aguilera and Stone, but whenever Nester performs traditional or contemporary blues, an upbeat soul jam, or a convicting gospel piece, her vocals invite the listener in; holding their attention through all the verses, choruses, and hooks.
     With a resume that encompasses musical theatre, singing alongside legendary stars, and winning a regional music award at the age of sixteen, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter now releases her debut recording Rattle The Walls.  The disc produced by longtime associate - veteran producer/arranger Robby Robinson (Martha Reeves, Alphonse Mouzon) offers a full menu of urban delights: blues, gospel, R&B, soul, and jazz; all delivered with a compelling voice that has lived the professional highs and tackled the personal lows. 

    Alex Nester - born Erin Alexandra Nester - grew up with musically inclined parents.  Her father - jazz horn player Russell Nester, has backed Alex in the local blues band Gary Manker & The Blues Crew, and honed his craft in various regional jazz and swing bands for several decades.  Her mother, acting coach Candace Nester, always encouraged Alex's vocal gifts.  Since her first commercial for Yo-Gel at age nine, Alex always found steady employment.  She has worked with top forty hit makers The Four Tops, The Fifth Dimension, and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.  As a recording artist, Alex was part of the cross-cultural female pop/rock vocal trio, Knockout, who in 2004 recorded the independent disc Can You Hear Me Now and was also honored by the government of The Republic of China to represent the U.S. as goodwill ambassadors for modern western pop music. 

    After paying all those dues on a regional basis, Nester reached her musical peak when she received the Outstanding Female Vocalist award at the 2000 esteemed L.A. Music Awards for her original composition, "Unique."   Many musicians and critics raved about Nester's astounding vocal talents.  Well-respected jazz fusion drummer/percussionist Mouzon dubbed Nester as "one of the greatest singers in the world."   Bobby Burns Jr., the current trumpeter for Earth Wind & Fire puts her on par with other soulful voices: "a voice with the soul of Aretha, the song quality of Nancy Wilson, and the fire of Chaka." 

    Unfortunately, after receiving her L.A.M.A. accolade, the following year brought an unforeseen illness that changed Nester's career goals for a short but very painful period.  While recording her debut project with long time musical associate Robinson, Nester was stricken with cancer.  Fortunately after a year of chemotherapy and lots of prayers from friends and family, she was declared cancer-free.  Thus, Nester continued her recording journey which resulted in Rattle The Walls from independent label Squeelo Records.

    Rattle The Walls really rattles with plenty of passion from Nester's gigantic voice.  This disc also transports the listeners with a retro, organic sound that will take listeners back to those raw soul and blues music days from record labels like Motown, Stax, Hi, and Malaco.  Everything on Rattle The Walls is on-point as Nester easily navigates her way through upbeat jams and poignant ballads.  For starters, "Unique" (which won Nester the L.A. Music Award in 2000) has a traditional blues feel with lyrics encouraging people to avoid being controlled by what others think.  Another blues burner, "Been Through It All," is a song declaring victory over her bout with cancer and all her other disappointments: "I've been through the test, I had to show what I learned."  The soul classic, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know;" covered by many artists like Donny Hathaway, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Elliott Yamin, perfectly showcases Nester's charismatic voice.  "Key of Truth" cleverly stirs up tidbits of funky top forty classics: "Takin' It To The Streets" by the Doobie Brothers and "Serpentine Fire" by Earth Wind & Fire.    Speaking of classics, Nester joins The Four Tops on the signature Motown hit, "Can't Help Myself."   There is more Motown in store with a medley dedicated to some of the best of Stevie Wonder entitled "Sir Stevie."  This is by far my favorite moment because Nester matches Wonder's energy level and integrity in her own incomparable way, and somehow manages to successfully piecemeal "Superstition" with "As," "You Haven't Done Nothin', "Livin' For The City," and "Have A Talk With God" into a funky jazz delicious stew.

    Assisting Nester on Rattle The Walls are a host of musicians mostly based out of the Los Angeles area, many who have worked with Nester during her younger years, including Nester's father Russell and producer Robinson.   These longtime musical connections are another reason why this exhilarating disc is worthwhile listening. 

    Both fans and musicians will certainly continue to champion this young singer/songwriter to aim for the greater heights in the music industry.  With Rattle The Walls, Nester already has joined the ranks of Aguilera and Stone as young female voices that realize the essence of soul music - impressive song interpreters who never cheat their audiences with their performances.   Overall, no matter what Nester accomplishes in the entertainment industry, she has all the qualities and charisma in developing her own star; perhaps maybe on the Hollywood Walk of Fame someday.  Highly Recommended.   

    By Peggy Oliver