Understandably heavily associated with its founding members bands Neurosis and Tribe Of Neurot, Neurot Recordings has quietly (well maybe not quietly…) been growing and expanding to a fully functioning label, releasing music from a variety of artists all handpicked by Neurosis, in particular, Steve Von Till.
This latest release comes from Nate Hall, the frontman of another Neurot endorsed act US Christmas; much like their genre defying mentors the band plays a unique style, heavily blues based but put throughout a high volume (including two drummers) psychedelic filter who have been bothering ear drums for nearly a decade now.
A Great River is a fantastic achievement, recorded in a single evening, it is the sound of a man baring his soul through words, guitars, banjo, Theremin and MXR Blue Box. Coming complete with words from other Neurosis luminary Scott Kelly this is no casual listen ‘The first time I heard Nate Hall’s voice I knew that I was hearing something that would haunt me forever. The unmistakable sound of mountains’ wind and the desperation and anguish of truth and experience.’
Make no mistake this isn’t the raging torrent that often gets thrown up by Neurosis, this is a work of beautiful melancholy honed from a life time of influence from Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young. This is bar room blues in the oldest and most lasting sense. Hall’s gravelly voice sings tales of world weary heartache and fading hope without pulling any punches.
The music swirls and glides throughout the 40 odd minutes of ‘A Great River’ but at no point does this seem to drag, the variety of different instruments layered to complement each downbeat moodscape propels this from ‘woe poor me’ type eulogising to sharing this heavy weight emotional journey with anyone prepared to embrace the stripped back nature of these tunes.
Despite the lack of crashing drums and buzzing guitar, this album still feels claustrophobic and dark whether it be ‘When Stars Begin To Fall’ completely devoid of accompanying music or the comparatively heavy ‘Dark Star’; these are ten tracks of a man baring his soul to great effect.
The album is a personal homage to the roots of Hall’s musical soul, right down to covering Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Kathleen’, a study of mid-west America discomfort and dissatisfaction which is plain to hear on ‘Chains’ as he mournfully intones ‘Is there something bad in me?/Poisoning my grasp of me?’.
‘A Great River’ won’t ever lift your spirits, it is a paean to the downtrodden, delicately masked in light, well-crafted tones and passages of build and release catharsis, but it has an incredible sense of atmosphere and honesty.
To be honest Scott Kelly summed it up best in his introductory notes ‘Authenticity isn’t something you can acquire. Either you are or you are not. Nate’s work shows a depth of heart and a pure channelling that you won’t come across 10 times in your life. This is the work of the soul that we all know. And the soul that knew us first. You aren’t born into this and you don’t die out of it. This is eternity, and it brings us all to the centre of the river that wants us to be here at this moment.’
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden