new season

The acoustic based, uncomplicated melodies woven throughout Nathan Edwards’s debut album have an organic sound and occasional reflective quality. By his own admission, Edwards says the different seasons have an influence over his song writing; not only did this affect his choice of album title, but also meant three of the ten featured cuts are weather themed. Although those songs are about summer and winter, the over-riding quality of the music has a sort of autumnal feel. Rather like Tom Petty’s ‘Wildflowers’ album from 1994, Edwards’s ‘New Season’ has a sound which seems perfectly matched to his choice of album cover.

The lead track ‘Be OK’ sounds optimistic from the start with its combination of acoustic and electric guitar work, accompanied by organ and drums. Edwards has a soft, but strong vocal leading an arrangement which could perhaps be described as a cross between Jack Johnson and The Connells. The chorus isn’t perhaps as strong as it could have been, but each of the individual musical elements pull together to create something which sounds very complete. ‘The Broken Hearted’ pushes Edwards’ pastel shades into almost alt-country territory. Once again, although the song writing is okay, it’s the use of harmony vocal and a thoughtful arrangement which provide its most memorable aspects.

‘Little Soldier’ is one of the album’s weak numbers. While the uncomplicated chord pattern has a jaunty nature and Cassie Edwards provides a sterling harmony vocal, it soon becomes musically disposable and lyrically repetitive. On the other hand, ‘Shadows’ is an epic number, which not only captures Edwards in top vocal form, it builds slowly to a great climax featuring great guitar work, courtesy of Chris Champion and Tyler Steele. It’s a number which hints at Willy Porter (though without the flashy acoustic twiddles) and The Connells, and as such, is a fantastic example of its brand of pop/rock. While it’s certainly more forthright than most of Edwards’s work, it doesn’t stick out as being uncharacteristically aggressive.

‘Cold Winter’ is an acoustic shuffle, backed by simple drumming and washes of organ. Once again, the chorus could be a little stronger, but a key change and tuneful bridge section make up for any shortcomings. ‘Song For a Summer Day’ is a number based around hard sounding acoustic guitar strings. Edwards’s lead vocal has an easy tone which lends itself well to the style of acoustic pop/rock.

The live sounding ‘Strangest Ways’ captures the sound of twin acoustic guitars over organ sounds, backed by brushed drums. As before, an electric lead creeps in from time to time, but essentially its Edwards up front and centre on a number which sounds like it could have been around for years. I’m not keen on what sounds like quasi-religious imagery, but despite that, it has charm; the song sounds like it could have been inspired by personal experience, with Edwards’s voice providing the track’s biggest strength. The upbeat ‘Lonely Heart’ uses an electric lead as its main musical hook and here, Edwards can be heard in full on rock/pop mode. His lead vocal is very natural and the use of a backing vocal counter melody is very effective. With a much stronger focus on electric instruments, ringing guitars and organ fills, this is a number which could possibly be best compared to Jakob Dylan’s Wallflowers.

Some of this album was recorded at Edwards’s home in South Dakota, some at an apartment in Illinois. Despite such homespun beginnings, it’s a warm sounding disc, worthy of a major label release (which again, begs the question: if lots of artists are capable of recording and releasing albums of this calibre on smallish budgets, when will small rock labels realise that marketing demos as finished works just isn’t acceptable?). Although there are a couple of musical missteps, most of the songs featured are of a good standard and in the case of ‘Shadows’ you even get a piece of roots-rock that’s near perfect.

Get ‘New Season’ here.

February 2011