The young dude of the future riding his ten speed, dodging cars. We’d see the wheels at the top of the stairs that lead to the literally underground record shop. The lanky kid would come bopping down the steps, dreads flopping. Electricity he’d bring, energy kinetic to the New York City he’s temporarily transplanted from. Talking, listening to new sounds, poring over well loved vinyl. He’d lay down a few bucks for worn copies of “Rubber Soul” and Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige”.
The same kid that dropped our jaws one night at an open mic, where he borrowed someone’s acoustic guitar and confidently launched into new songs. We were surprised to learn he wasn’t quite old enough for a drivers license, a junior at C. Milton Wright High School. A year later he would premiere his first album from front to finish headlining a show there on Main Street to an overflowing crowd dancing in the streets.
Nate Allan was actually born in Baltimore during a family visit, the hometown of his maternal grandmother. His dad from Detroit, and his mom’s from Philadelphia. They met at the University of Delaware. The son of a “hippie” father and the American matriarchal mother, Allan spent his childhood in Brooklyn Heights , a neighborhood in the progressive and forward thinking bastion of the east coast. There he was enchanted by the roots of his musical dad, and the Mingus “Blues and Roots” of his mom.
Nate Allan has released his debut. A charming pop album. An Americana melange of cohesive smooth segueing songs spanning southern blues, bayside horizons and Greenwich Village. The cover, sans name and title, an unassuming photo of a a south looking Allan, sitting by a northbound train track in nearby Aberdeen. The Amtrak station to Allan’s hometown of New York City. The train that our Vice President took to work from neighboring Delaware, the one President Obama rode on his inaugural tour through Baltimore.
The music, well it makes — I handed the CD to my wife for her drive to work and the next evening I asked her if she liked it, a huge smile erupted, “I love it!”, I was jealous, “that’s great” I muttered, she usually answers my muse suggestions with “iiits…okay.” — the girls swoon.
Allan’s guitar striking simple chords, less is more, and a knowing edge like New York street Lou Reed, a cut to the point, an emotive dagger to your heart with the sweetness and vulnerability of Curtis Mayfield and breezes of Woods. An eloquent album of songs- soulful punk meets an influence, such as Gershwin. Alternative indie, pop, blues and jazz flow through Allan’s work. Live, he can wow the girls with love ballads and turn on a nickel with accusing punked blues rockers crushing to the bone.
The LP, “When the Sun Comes Around” starts out with “Misunderstood,” a Velvet’s choppy lyrical riff, and kicks in with a persistent cowbell, and it works to a driving rocker “I’m not sorry, and you’re not hurt, it’s just a little bit misunderstood.” Lovely harmonies flow to Squeeze like hooks and skiffle rides and electric light touchtones with strings to “surround sound in color, the story uncovered that’s life.” Tender love songs like “For a Girl” “in between the sheets” and a soft aching duet with Sam O’Hare on “This too.”
A wink to the Beatles, an influence spreading over “Revolver” era horns and McCartney on rocking “Madeline” – “Lady Madeline you drive me crazy. Bit by little bit, my sight goes hazy.” The album’s produced well, (arranged and written by Allan, co-produced with Will Melones ) sounds warm and rarely feels overproduced. There’s a simplicity, and everything pretty much feels in place.
The title song, a jazzy and upbeat song, a mature work (as is the album), with catchy hooks, layered romantic vocals and harmonizing. Influences of downtown doo wop and soul and features some nice sax work from Jeffrey Hoover. Paul DeLuca delivers on trumpet. Keyboards and piano from Kirsten Fitzsimmons and Danny Garrett fills in on organ.
“Brooklyn Thoughts” a song of delightful swoons and refrains, casting self doubts and concerns with the city he regularly visits to see dear friends and extended family. “I think I’m out of line every time I walk down the streets” and “I think we’re innocent, but that’s just me…who knows”. The “Reprise” with a dancing bass line from Nathan Elliott, crossing the path of bebop, with Allan proclaiming “there’s more to this boy than nicotine and late nights,” and pointing “you think that all your problems need a little lie to solve them.”
“I Will Be Your Stone”, at first blanch lyrically reminds one of REM’s Stipe’s kissoff to another prop in each town. The lyrics of love, belief and strength, while the singers away on tours and sideshows. Actually, the song’s a love song to his younger brother, to think of Nate spiritually by his side as they separate and follow their life’s paths. “…I won’t trust who you choose, when you’re heart breaks, I’ll be there for you, too.” A beautiful song, beginning slow and building to crescendo, kicked in with drums from Tyler Pietruska, like the southern fried rock of Skynyrd, and at once reminiscent of a “Bridge over Troubled Waters.”
Nate Allan’s a visitor. He’s enjoyed the countryside and town life, and it will always be a base. He’s made friends for life in the conservative, northern Maryland town of Bel Air and around. But he’ll be riding the train from Aberdeen to the multicultural arts center of the northeast city for more than a liaison, to study music further in his life in fusion. Rhythm and blues, jazz, and white light/white heat.
Scott Hammer says
Cover art by Jessica Garcia with Springwood Productions. Blue photo by Amber Melissa Turkin.