Nashville Dreams / Sings The BluesVacant Stare
***"Dick Stusso isn't his real name—he's 29-year-old Oakland singer-songwriter Nic Russo. And on his debut album Nashville Dreams (co-released with another collection called Sings the Blues), he performs as a struggling country/glam singer with a singular goal: to leave the big city, head to Tennessee, and try to make it. 'The Ballad of Dicky Stuss' is the album's emotional climax, telegraphing the stark contrast between the ease and optimism of his childhood and the harsh realities of the present.
It's a familiar story: Dicky's parents set him up for success, but instead of pursuing a traditional career, he chose the life of an artist. He walks the streets in his cowboy boots, schizophrenic and presumably beaten down by the road. With a simple piano ballad and some doubled-tracked vocals, he cuts to the heart of things—that everything would've been just fine if he hadn't picked up a guitar and decided to hit the road. That's the risk when you stray from the path of financial security—you might be walking toward happiness or creative satisfaction, but you're way more likely to fall on your face. Life might be difficult for "poor little Dicky Stuss," but thank god Nic Russo pursued his own rock'n'roll dreams enough to deliver this album. The guy's voice is beautiful, he's got an effortless way with writing melodies, and his sentiments are knowable and familiar."—Pitchfork