SweetNur – Central Station
A clever play on words — SweetNur (aka producer Chris Nurthen) – vocals/acoustic guitar on this 4-cut EP Central Station (Drops Sept 30-Sweetnur Music).
Chris, a former Naval officer is now a Memphis-based artist with a richly expressive voice. The compositions are story-based, concerning the positive aspects of adulthood & the struggles many face to live with a fluid John Mellencamp style that glides around Dave Matthews & David Gray traditions.
While his tonality is excellent the competent SweetNur has some blemishes in his work but hardly noticeable. “Misunderstood,” the lead-off track is quite good. It’s more country-rock than the current flux of pop-country. The guitar solo finale is fiery & faithfully played.
With the relaxed country-pop balladry of “Bay Dale,” Chris settles back with a pleasant enough song but eases back into formula-oriented country music. You know what happens when you ease back too far. Chris shouldn’t, because he has a satisfying incisive style that’s appealing & with the right consistent mix would be perfect for mainstream country. I didn’t say commercial. He’s better than that.
Some songs aren’t as intense or challenging as others, maybe Chris is testing the waters. This is a good song but it’s also too cute. SweetNur falls victim also on “This Little House,” (with Traci DeLeon) which is a friendly tune but if you’ve heard as many country songs as I have this has been done a million times. Pick-up trucks? Growing old when you’re still young? Saving every penny? Today? Big backyard & a nice front porch? Sippy cups? What happened to the guy who sang “Misunderstood?”
Don’t abandon the melody. It’s fine. Just rethink the sugar-coated lyrics that teeter on novelty. I can’t express more the avoidance of cliches. Sing about what you know – what did you see when you were in the Navy? Meet any crazy characters? Do wild things? Funny stories from a fellow Navy man from the North? Go fishing off the side of a destroyer? Miss home?
Do you think some military people – young & old — wouldn’t love your material? Write what you know & embrace it. See what I mean?
Now, “John Denver,” that’s a wow song. It’s a superb coda. This is SweetNur with a 360-degree turnaround. Great lyrics & melody with musical tendrils that reach beyond mere Country. I hear the exuberance in Chris’ voice – much like John Denver himself. This is assertive work.
Musicians – Traci DeLeon (vocals on 2 songs), Stone Pannel, Jay Ward & Logan Green (electric guitars), Ben Whitehorn & Robert Harsen (drums), Brady Smith & Adam Robert Thomas (bass), Compton McMurry (bass/keys), Harris Beauchamp (keys/tambourine/bgv), Julia Brown & Traci Long (bgv), Tim Plunk (organ), Alice Hasen (violin), Logan Green (mandolin), Jay Ward & Compton McMurry (synths).
Color image courtesy of SweetNur. Guitar photo: Harris Beauchamp. CD @ https://sweetnurmusic.com/