Saturday, 1 December 2012

Nate Hall - A Great River

US Christmas?! What kind of a name for a band is that? At least, that’s what I remember thinking when someone offered to sell me a copy of Run Thick In The Night sometime in 2010. I hadn’t really heard of them, and being the lazy dickhead I can be, I closed the email and figured I’d just not get back to the guy about his offer. A few days later I was mulling around at Shane’s place before band practice and something came blaring out his speakers. I can be incredibly particular about the music I like, and tend to gloss over most suggestions. Some things click a few years after the fact, some things stand out like the proverbial dog’s balls, you know, the non-desexed variety! This was one such occasion.
 “Who’s this?” I asked, a question that can now loosely be translated as, “this is interesting to me...unlike the last hour's worth of stuff we’ve listened to.”
“This is the latest US Christmas album. It’s just come out,” Shane obliged.

I returned home later that night and sifted through the penis enlargement and Cialis emails in my trash, found the email concerning the LP, responded, and upon it’s arrival on my doorstep, proceeded to wear an extra groove in the record from playing it over and over and over. I am pretty sure that anyone who had the misfortune to be at my house or in my ute around that time experienced at least some of that album. I was hooked! It was kinda alt-country-meets-stoner-meets-psych. Hard to describe really, but all I knew was that often, sometimes during the wee hours of the morning, being crammed in a van with four other smelly dudes who are snoring and farting their way between pub shows that stink of stale beer and wet carpet, THIS, my good friends, THIS was the sonic meeting point of the sky and the sea! This was what I needed to hear at 3am somewhere along a pitch black road on the Hay Plains! This was my introduction to Nate Hall.

Nate Hall, part of the US Christmas collective, releasing a solo album, A Great River...hmmmm? Gotta get my big fat sausage fingers on that. And so I did.

Bright guitars, minimalist in nature, ranging between the soft ocean growl of electric riffing and some uplifting leads, to the simplistic strumming and plucking of acoustic organic strings. Melancholic, sorrowful themes and vocals, this is the kind of music that appeals to alcoholics. That therapeutic wallowing in my own misery and isolation. I’ll just crack another beer, pour myself another neat nip of liquor and we’ll head further down the spiral of self-medicating, self-loathing, depressed bullshit. This is the kind of music that plays in the background of the end scene of sad independent movies where the protagonist ends up hanging himself, just when you think he’s worked it all out. This is bags under your eyes at work and bourbon on your breath in the boss' office during that performance review - tie loosened, top button undone, coffee stain on your crumpled and untucked shirt. This is the soundtrack to you, your greasy, crevassed face and your 5 o’clock shadow, and how you explain it all to the dog, 'cause your wife, she already left you!

In this I hear heartbreak. I hear drowning in life. As awesome as it is tremendous in its emotional power, songs like "Dark Star" cut to the bone. It’s the kind of music you want to see in a country pub filled with the scent of stale cigarette smoke and complete with horrible red carpet, old leathery-faced barflies and, of course, the chicken wire in front of the stage.

A Great River is a very complete album too, right down to the Townes Van Zandt cover, "Kathleen". Lengthy enough to provide you with ample drinking tunes or to cover a decent drive out of town, without becoming redundant or one-dimensional, so often the Achilles' heal of solo guitar, singer/songwriter (is that in line with current industry terminology?) albums.

So if life has recently kicked you in the balls or your hound has been put down, you lost your job or your good for nothing husband/wife/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc has walked out on you, hide the pills and the rope, crank out the hard liquor and spin this album after 12am on a weeknight. Fuck your neighbours. Perhaps when the clock strikes 1 you’ll regale them with the lyrics off key and out of tune!

Jon Dangerous

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