Fleeting melodicism seemingly made of gold circles preparing to go in for the kill in “Smokey Mountain Memories.” Fiery harmonies are made compressed into a bout of Americana as emotive as it is stirring in “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are At Home.” Nathan Stanley dazzles us with vocal showmanship in “Hallelujah, I’m Ready” with as much ease as he does in the countrified “Last Date,” lead single “Sandy Ridge Wind,” and “Dream of a Miner’s Child.”
There’s tension seeping out of the tonality of the instrumentation we discover in “If That’s the Way You Feel,” but much like the emotional strands of melodicism that ebb and flow with the rhythm in “You Win Again,” there are never less than a half-dozen channels of artistic communication open at once in any given track you’ll hear when examining Nathan Stanley Live!, Stanley’s new live album. In this latest affair, Nathan Stanley turns in his most emotional performance to date and, debatably, sets forth a fusion of folk and country components that goes unmatched in the underground this season. No matter how you slice it, If All Else Falls is a smashing LP, and its creator’s ultimate statement of self.
“That’s How I Got to Memphis,” “Going Home,” and “Always on My Mind” are all arranged with a strong focus on maximizing the melodic tension in the music, and while they’re strikingly different from each other on a cosmetic level, they each share a certain sonic sensibility that makes them perfect mates on this album.
There’s a lot for us to take in here – with a total of sixteen different songs, including obscure yet ethereal tunes in “Tennessee 1949” and “All I Ever Loved Was You,” Nathan Stanley Live! is hardly the short and sweet offering that a lot of Stanley’s closest rivals have been producing in the last year, but I wouldn’t hold its packed contents against it too harshly. Contrary to the minimalist model many of his peers have been obsessed with lately, this LP explores elements of pulsating percussion, textural
expressiveness, and groove-affected narratives that a conservative framework wouldn’t have allowed for, and as I see it, partially thanks to the meticulousness of this master mix, Nathan Stanley emerges from his most recent studio sessions sounding like a genius for it.
If this album is on par with what we can all expect to hear from this singer/songwriter in the years to come, he’s going to be making a lot of waves extending well beyond the underground as the next couple of years come into focus. There are a lot of incredible records emerging from the more overlooked corners of the acoustic pop and country world right now, but among those which I have personally reviewed, I can’t say that I’ve come across any quite like this one. It’s got enough in common with past pop staples to entice an audience that has grown tired of over-stylizations and bombast in recent years, but it’s progressive-minded to the point of sounding almost revolutionarily different from many of the similarly-structured LPs out right now on this side of the Pacific.