Sounds Just Like a Shotgun TastesNate Hall of U.S. Christmas is the latest musician from Neurot to go for the stripped-down, folk singer-songwriter approach. I have loved every album of this kind (Steve Von Till moreso than Scott Kelly), and A Great River is no exception.
At heart, this is just that kind of album, although it's ornamented somewhat. The vocals (which have more than a little Bob Dylan in them) have plenty of reverb. In fact, just about every sound on this has been put through some reverb, giving it a somewhat eerie aspect. Combined with the repetition of the acoustic rhythm strumming, and the drawn-out distorted chords, it gives the record a psychedelic twist to dark Americana.
The mood is incredibly dark. "Raw Chords" evokes Metallica's version of "Turn the Page," without any corn, and without the part where they rock out. It's just the parts that make you want to hang a rope above a chair, if you weren't too depressed to bother.
Mostly, the record consists of the three psych-folk elements of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and vocals. Banjo, piano, and organ also make appearances, giving it just enough dynamic interest. Some listeners may find it tough to get through the whole record, though, given the relatively steady tempo and mood. It simulates a deep depression. If you want even a moment of hope or energy, you'd best look elsewhere.
The Verdict: Fans of Across Tundras, Bloodiest, Steve Von Till, or any slightly metallicized dark Americana should take note. But if you're not already a fan of this style, it's probably not the best place to start. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Buy A Great River