Nathan Kalish – Great Big Motel Bed In the Sky
While I’m not thrilled with the cover art this 10-song, 33-minute collection of music by Nathan Kalish is filled with tidy melodies, terse narratives & originality from start to finish. Yes, on certain songs he may remind one of other artists but as a whole, he has a well-nourished showcase. “Richman’s World,” has a tint of Dr. John in the vocal but the song is aurally a pleasure. I instantly enjoyed it from the opening notes. The presentation throughout this album has zephyrous overtones. Nothing is overblown, it’s all breezy & balanced.
The instrumentation, song lyrics & melodies are all well-disciplined in this recording, creating a stirring atmosphere. While not a concept album each song seems inter-related to the previous. No matter, they blend cohesively.
Produced by Nashville-based journeyman Nathan Kalish (vocals/guitar/synth) the LP explores loss, love, sincerity, absurdity & cynical jabs at wealth, power & those who crave & seek it. The typical songwriter’s menu runs through a colander of psychedelic folk rock & cosmic country ala the early Grateful Dead but maybe not so hippie-dippy.
However, Kalish is quite singular in his vocalizing. He does indeed have a signature sound that is evocative. He’s not trippy, words aren’t fantasy-driven or drug-induced melancholia. There are far more cleverly optimistic notes in his songs despite the subjects. Kalish understands the importance of intonation, phrasing & tonality. Which words he sings need emphasizing & his songwriting doesn’t reflect many other peers. He has a style.
Several songs on Great Big Motel Bed In the Sky (Drops July 22–JTM) are genuine storytelling numbers. “Unavailable Women,” is an excellent little song about bad luck with women. The final cut sounds like it was inspired by the late John Prine as “Motel Bed,” — a little deeper in the traditional country genre is performed with gusto & oop-pah-pah beat & nice piano workout. It all works.
The poignant “Ballad of Soules,” is about longtime touring bassist Eric Soules who passed away & is now in “the great big motel in the sky.” An excellent tune. There is no gruffness to Kalish’s vocals but there is plenty of character in his often-somber tone. His voice is perfect for tunes about reminiscing, pulling meaning from gone by days, put simply he has an inspired manner. He doesn’t just sing words.
A great tight band known as the Derechos with – Danny Pratt (drums/percussion), Adam Kurtz (pedal steel), Zach Vinson (keys), David Guy & Brandon Cantwell (bass), Adam Meisterhans (electric guitar), Miriam Kalish & Luella Mathes (backing vocals).
The cover doesn’t accurately represent the music & it’s too dark. Sorry. Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartley.
CD @ Bandcamp + https://kalish.us/