We’re not even halfway through 2019, but there’s already been a litany of country music treasures making their way to the forefront of pop culture in both the mainstream and the underground, and this month, Nathan King adds one more to the heap with his all-new LP All Eyes on You. Boasting such supremely smooth ballads as “425,” “Just One Night” and the stirring “Last First Kiss,” All Eyes on You feels like a statement piece from its composer, and its message isn’t clouded at all. Nathan King is coming for the Nashville throne this year, and he’s dishing out a worthy soundtrack to usher in his arrival.
“Last First Kiss,” “Redneck” and the single “I Don’t Drink Like I Used To” are pretty experimental structurally, but I don’t find them to be over the top in their ambitiousness in the slightest. King had been toying with a lot of external influences on his last album, and in this most recent recording session, I get the feeling that he wanted to see how far he could push himself as a songwriter. He’s utilizing every weapon in his war chest in these tracks, and subsequently producing some magnificent results.
“Run It Down,” “Teal” and the title track stick to a fairly conventional script, but I think that it’s worth noting that the substance of their musicality is the antithesis of plastic predictability. There’s a poppy varnish to “Just One Night” and “Outskirts In” that I wasn’t expecting to hear, but it fits in with the polished tone of the other songs just fine. While Nathan King isn’t totally departing from his original sound in this record, I think that it’s awfully obvious that he’s growing into a more evolved and well-rounded artist than what many of his harsher critics might have anticipated.
All Eyes on You has one of the most physical master mixes of any country record that I’ve heard outside of Timber’s The Family, which dabbled much more in surrealism and Americana than it did the roots rock that King does here. “I Don’t Drink Like I Used To” and “No Stopping Us Now” are blues-oriented country bruisers that will quake the floorboards beneath your stereo even when played at moderate volumes, while “425” has the elegant half-whispered melodicism and lyrical vulnerability of an isolated, campfire-lit performance. This mix brings all of it to life, and plays just as big a role in coaxing a reaction out of listeners as the music itself does.
For my money, very few of the artists garnering the most buzz in Nashville right now can compete with Nathan King at the moment, and that’s no minor statement to make when we take into account just how many stars the scene has been turning out lately. This is an amazing time for country music, and an equally important crossroads for King’s young career. If he keeps on the present artistic trajectory that he’s been following over the last year, I have no doubt that he’s going to enter the primetime spotlight in no time.
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