Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nathan Xander: “Blue House” (2017) CD Review

Nathan Xander is a singer and songwriter based in New York. His is a voice of experience and understanding, and he is adept at crafting songs that engage and move us. His latest release, Blue House, features all original material. Joining him on this release are John Atzberger on guitar; Keith Rowland on bass; Anders Griffin on percussion; and Drew Nix on keys, guitar, bass, percussion and backing vocals. The music here is a mix of folk, country, rock, and blues, with a focus on the lyrics. Fans of bands like Patrolled By Radar and Wilco should certainly appreciate this album.

The album opens with “Mount Washington,” which has an interesting tone – kind of dark, yet kind of sweet. That sound pulled me in immediately the first time I put this disc on. And check out these lyrics: “There’s no savior on the South Side/No one left to accept the angel’s share/But if you want to stay on that mountain/May the devil meet you there.” Yeah, this album is certainly not background music. “Mount Washington” is followed by “(What It Takes To) Make A Man,” a folk rock song which features some nice work by Nathan Xander on harmonica. “You’ll find it in the eyes of everyone that needs you/A little of what it takes to make a man.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Over You, Over Me.” I was hooked at the song’s first line, which is “Sometimes I get tired of what I think I want to be.” That’s one of those excellent lines that might mean something different for each person who hears it, but feels applicable to all of us in some way. This line also stands out: “I know a few things about being lonely.” And soon after that line, Nathan allows his voice to get raw, in a moment of need, as he opens himself up on “But if I yell for you will you come cover me.” Yeah, this is a seriously good song. Another of the disc’s highlights is “I Remember You Now.” It has a kind of mellow, psychedelic-sounding opening, which I love, especially that guitar. Plus, I really like Nathan’s vocal performance on this track. “The little things that I can rely on/I hope you remember me, as I remember you now.”

“Enoch’s Blues” is a cool song, with – as its title promises – a strong, bluesy vibe. Perhaps the most interesting track is “Old Boots.” It eases in gently with some nice work on guitar, starting as a sweet folk song. Then suddenly it comes on forcefully, demanding your attention. “Hold your breath and pull your head from the air/See that things never really change/Almost home, find your door over there/Find comfort in things that remain the same.” There is also some good work on percussion. “Pennsylvania” made me laugh at the start, its first lines being “New York City makes me feel like a redneck/But back home I’m still the weirdest child.” This is another of the album’s highlights, a fun, energetic tune about thinking about home. This is one a lot of folks can probably relate to, those of us living in a big city and sometimes feeling nostalgic about home. The album then concludes with “Day To Day,” which also is about returning home (or trying to), but with a very different feel. It has a gentle, thoughtful sound, and features some nice work on harmonica. The line at the end that always stands out for me is “And I’m thankful there’s bad habits I still haven’t picked up.” I like it because you can look at it two ways – that he’s happy there are some bad habits that he can pick up later when he wants something new, or that he’s glad to have avoided at least a few bad habits in his time.

CD Track List
  1. Mount Washington
  2. (What It Takes To) Make A Man
  3. Over You, Over Me
  4. You’re Never Wrong
  5. Peter And Sam
  6. I Remember You Now
  7. Enoch’s Blues
  8. Unknown Road
  9. Old Boots
  10. Shadows
  11. Pennsylvania
  12. Day To Day
Blue House was released on July 17, 2017 on Trailer Fire Records.

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