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Nathan Stanley’s “Nathan Stanley Live!” 

Quaint and simple with us in “Hallelujah, I’m Ready,” furious in his melding of tense melodic ribbonry in “Tennessee” and alive with gentle decadence in “You Win Again,” Nathan Stanley isn’t afraid to explore every corner of his skillset in the new album Nathan Stanley Live!, the new live record he’s releasing in 2023.


There are blue hues to behold in “Dream of a Miner’s Child,” aching harmonics in “Smokey Mountain Memories,” and self-explanatory swing in “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are At Home.” Bouncy beats find a home in the humble string play of “Last Date” much as they do “Going Home” and the surreal “He’ll Always Be Papaw to Me.” In Nathan Stanley Live!, Stanley is determined to explore tonality through the time machine that is the potency of the Americana aesthetic, and although much of the content here has the feel of something improvised and composed literally on the fly amidst an ongoing jam session, there’s never an instance in which our leading man sounds unsure of himself or the creative direction he’s taking. There’s a lot of confidence in his execution, but more importantly, a natural talent that binds together all of the material regardless of stylistic origin. 

There’s a lot of color to the melodies in “If That’s the Way You Feel,” the lead single and music video “Sandy Ridge Wind” and even the subtle epilogue piece “Always On My Mind,” to such an extent that I think it works to assert just how virtuosic a style of play Stanley is showing off here. I absolutely can’t get enough of the tension we encounter close to the end of the record in “Tennessee,” as it essentially warms the audience up for the undying catharsis that comes undone by the time “Going Home” sweeps us off our feet. When a mood is utilized with the efficiency this player employs in Nathan Stanley Live!, you end up with an LP that goes above and beyond the standard for what an instrumental record is supposed to convey. There are plenty of swinging grooves throughout tracks like “Dream of a Miner’s Child” to keep us as enamored with the rigid tempo as we are with the brooding works like “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” and in its entirety, I wouldn’t say there’s much ground the music fails to cover from an emotional standpoint. 

Both a robust tribute to good ol’ fashioned Western melodicism at its most materially unfanciful and an amazingly immersive listening experience for anyone who enjoys bucolic sophistication, Nathan Stanley’s Nathan Stanley Live! is one of my favorite country crossover albums of the year so far. This record works as ambiance or as a piece you can get lost in, and though it isn’t the only LP that Stanley’s melting pot of a scene is releasing in 2023 worth taking a peek at, I would have to say it’s probably the most elaborate from an aesthetical point of view. It’s conceptually minimalistic without dispute, but nevertheless, a live album that somehow plays out not unlike a symphony. 

Mindy McCall



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