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Hall, Nate: A Great River

Can't wait for the new U.S. Christmas album? Then buy A Great River – the first solo effort from that band's guitarist/vocalist Nate Hall, as it pushes some of the same buttons U.S. Christmas does.

Can't wait for the new brooding outing from Neil Young? Then by all means do buy Nate Hall's CD, too, as it is just as natural and, you guessed it, just as brooding as anything Neil Young could come up with.

Can't wait for Bob Dylan's brand new… Oh well, perhaps we should stop comparing Hall to other musicians and bands right here and right now. Let's just talk about the tracks Hall recorded on A Great River in, as the legend has it, "a single March evening". A word of warning first: if you have never longed for a life in the wilderness with nothing but the sounds of wind and trees and an occasional howl of a wolf or coyote in the background, A Great River may not be right for you. Seriously. This is a true vagabond's album if I know one. The wind-swept opening track, "The Earth In One Cell", inspires the listener to leave civilization behind, lie down on some comfy, moss-covered rock and relax listening to the drone of Hall's lazy guitar and his even lazier voice. The next track, "Dark Star", may be over 6 minutes long but don't expect sudden changes of mood or any sort of complexity here, either – it's a direct continuation of "The Earth In One Cell" with Hall again hardly moving his lips to utter the lyrics and his fingers slowly stroking the strings to produce the same tireless progression of chords over and over again. Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy such relaxed tracks, but perhaps a bit more variety here and there wouldn't exactly damage it.

The most "casual listener-friendly" tunes are perhaps "Kathleen", "Chains" and "Raw Chords". Of course, one shouldn't expect uplifting choruses and optimistic lyrics from these, either. This is world-weary stuff, all of it. But the three tracks mentioned above are kind of catchy in their own weird way. "Kathleen", a handsome Townes Van Zandt cover, may be another minimalistic affair, but there's enough emotion and melody in Hall's voice to make it memorable after the very first listening. "Chains", too, immediately forces its way into your soul even though Hall seems to be doing his best to sing the song as indifferently as possible. "Raw Chords" is a tune that wears its monotone with pride, but Hall's sad whispers transform it into a likeable ballad you might want to return to pretty often.

But to see if you are a true die-hard fan of Hall's singing, you should listen to his a cappella rendering of the traditional melody "When The Stars Begin to Fall". If you end up loving it unconditionally then yes – you definitely are a fan. If you end up saying "Nice first try, Nate, now make it just a bit more perfect, will you?" then you're just not getting the whole concept of A Great River. After all, Hall had just one evening to record the album, remember?

01 The Earth In One Cell
02 Dark Star
03 Kathleen
04 Night Theme
05 Chains
06 To Wake and Dream
07 Raw Chords
08 Electric Night Theme
09 When The Stars Begin to Fall
10 A Great River

Added: April 4th 2012
Reviewer: Bartek Paszylk
Related Link: Artist Facebook Page
Hits: 2030
Language: english

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