Anything that instantly evokes Damien Rice’s brilliant use of special awareness and atmosphere as an instrument is going to find favour with this music scribe. Here is the same space between the notes, the same anticipation bridging the sentences that he also painted into his music so effectively. But it isn’t enough to just follow someone else’s lead and what Nathan Leaman brings to the table is a passionate, lo-fi country vibe blended with a DIY folk attitude. This is music boiled down to bare emotions, where every extraneous layer has been removed and between the most minimal and often wonderfully wayward chord strum and the fragile yet driven vocal there is an intensity and devotion that would be lost if he had resorted to a more complex set up.
Tales of heading for new cities, chasing dreams, musical ambitions and a lovelorn longing weave through the collective narrative, one that is both universally familiar to us all yet totally personal to its creator. These are the familiar small town tales of unrequited love, loss and life in general, the stories behind the scars and bruises, metaphorical and otherwise, that we can all relate to. This is the underdog’s song and the underdog’s song is always more interesting than the winners.
If there is one possible stumbling block, it will be in the vocal delivery. Nathan’s breathy, upwards inflections and staccato statements aren’t going to be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who have forgotten the role of mavericks in music, I have a two word gentle reminder. Bob Dylan. I’m not saying that this collection of songs are particularly reminiscent of his Bobness, but I am saying that just occasionally people with unconventional styles and less traditional approaches can still find a way to the top. In fact it is exactly what keeps the musical gene pool populated.
Some music is all about high drama, polished production and big, brash statements. This is not that kind of music. This is emotion turned into song, the music you would hear if your soul itself could hold a tune. It’s always good to remind yourself that it’s all about the gift, not necessarily the package it comes in.