You may wonder if Spike Nicer has always been Spike Nicer. Well I don’t like to say it, but Spike used to be a good deal nicer. Spike was clean and an obedient kid, son of a carpenter, his mom was a country cop. Spike’s folk’s never had much money. They put food on the table with the help of a kitchen garden and an occasional chicken culled from their small flock. Spike went out and collected the eggs. Lived off the fat of the land and so on. There was a long trench outside his folks’ wooden house. The dirt on the floor of the trench was packed hard from much use. As a boy, Spike would climb down in the trench and take the bottom handles of the pit saw and he and his dad would re-saw fresh logs into siding to use on the houses they built in Finger Lake country. Spike would ride next to his mom in her mud-splattered patrol car bouncing across the country roads, and reload for her in shootouts from behind the overturned car after the high-speed chases they got into, cleaning up the hills of meth cookers and other such deviants. On Saturdays Spike and his dad would take the hose out in the cement driveway and wash the Ford pickup and polish it to a shine with paste wax. Both wore overalls. Salt of the earth. You get the picture. Spike was nicer, like I said. He got up from the table and cleaned up and washed the dishes without being asked.

He could sing, though, even back then. I’m not saying Spike can’t sing, I’m just saying he used to be nicer. Here’s what it is: Spike sang in the Methodist church choir in that small town up there in the state of New York, songs from the hymnal in a sweet soprano when he was five, already a mid range by the time he was nine, proud to sing with the men with big voices. Who wouldn’t be, with a voice like that. Naturally it made his mom and dad proud, too, sitting out there holding up their hymnal, moving their jaws up and down shyly. Even after he grew up and left home and joined the Navy and worked out in the world at various jobs, Spike played a clean guitar and sang wholesome songs, love songs, funny songs, folk songs, I think; songs he made up about wholesome things. Plants with feelings. It’s hard to explain. His people would gather around. Some would take up their own instruments, guitars and harmonicas.

But Spike took up with a rough crowd. It was bound to happen. Ragged men who liked their women sassy and their liquor aged in oak. They played electric instruments and drums and they all went out and got tattoos and so on and Spike turned away from gospel music and commenced to writing his own songs about baker men, songs that seem to have hidden messages, I don’t have to tell you what I mean. Cement shoes, if I remember right. Well, that’s not fair. I think that was one of the funny songs. But it wasn’t long before it was “light up your furnace, baby, when you know I’m comin’ round.” Use your imagination. You barely have to.

Now, you might like rowdy ballads about loose women with names like Caitie Bange. Women with “gymnastic legs” who visit the mayor and so on. But I don’t. I’d rather Spike would raise his voice to glorify the Lord, Who gave His Son, my soul to save, and fit it for the sky, and so forth. Apparently those liberals at Rolling Stone like what Spike’s doing with his voice, though. “The sound is ‘plush,’” they say. You’d expect that from them. “The songs rely on friendly well-crafted melodies on which Nicer lavishes heart and soul . . .” and so on and so forth. He’ll think about lavishing his heart and his soul on spiritual matters if he knows what’s good for him. Praising his savior all the day long. Here’s what one individual says about Spike Nicer the musician: “he's a tunesmith with an ear for an engaging melody, an instinct for a good story and a passion for musicianship.” Maybe you know what a tunesmith is, I can only guess. I imagine it’s meant to be a compliment. The question is, would you rather hear a tunesmith singing songs of praise to his Maker, or would you prefer that he make up things about someone he calls a “back up man”? I guarantee, it doesn’t mean a musician. “I’ll be your number 2”, this person says. “It’s morally incorrect,” this person says!!! I wish I had a nickel for every time someone kisses someone on the lips and says he “knows it’s wrong” in one of Spike Nicer’s songs.

Spike Nicer used to play a handsome guitar, sitting there on a chair in the dining room or on the living room rug, head bent over the strings. Then, like I say, he took up with that rough crowd and their electric instruments. Now, one of them is playing a boogie woogie piano half the time, and they have drums and four or five brassy horns. One thing I do like is the girl singers singing such lovely harmonies. And I will say that I think it’s a good sign that they sing The Star Spangled Banner on his new album. Maybe this means that Spike is getting nicer. Let’s hope so. He does have that pretty new wife. If anything could make Spike nicer, it’s her.

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