Jeb Loy Nichols’s first release since his acclaimed 1997 disc Lovers Knot is so laid-back, it should come packaged in a hammock. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with being laid-back, the problem creeps in when “laid-back” turns into plain old dull. That happens quite a few times on Just What Time It Is, and the result is a CD that misses more than it hits.
If Nichols had capture the warm looseness that permeates the opening track, “Heaven Right Here”, throughout the album, perhaps the final result would have been better. In this song, he effortlessly weaves together various influences — reggae, folk and soul, to name a few — in a way that seems neither contrived nor heavy-handed. But he achieves that perfect mix only fleetingly on the rest of the disc, most notably the hypnotic “Midnight (All Night Long)”.
The other songs collapse under the weight of sleepy arrangements and poor lyrics, or occasionally a combination of the two. The worst offenders are the plodding “Summer Came” and the sickly-sweet “Kissing Gate”. In the latter, Nichols sings, “She talks to me, tells me things/Sounds as sweet as the brush of angel wings,” a line that sounds like it was written after studying the poetry canon of Jewel. Lines like these and a casualness that never quite becomes compelling ultimately sink Just What Time It Is.