Nathan Mongol Wells – From A Dark Corner
This CD is an introduction to the singer/frontman of the Ottoman Turks band — Nathan Mongol Wells (vocals/acoustic & rhythm guitar/bouzouki/bongos). Nathan steps outside of the Turks’ persona for a solo effort that’s a little less raucous, a little more autobiographical & pensively nostalgic.
The 10-track originals recorded in Dallas; From A Dark Corner (Drops Aug. 18–State Fair Records) was produced by John Pedigo (Theremin/mandolin/lead guitar/bgv) & Joshua Ray Walker (bgv).
The opener “Beulah Land,” has a touch of Brecht-Weill in its melody & a dark Tom Waits approach that’s well-seasoned with Wells’ own shading. A little more Junior Brown in its upbeat rousing performance is “Juarez,” & again Nathan makes it work a few feet from novelty by adding strident yet buttery rhythms with gutsy guitar (Nik Lee) which uncoils throughout. His vintage rock n’ roll voice is pure sugar.
The entire showcase is invigorating. It’s possible that the weakness is in Nathan’s attempt to cover too many diversified bases in his showcase. But I hesitate to criticize because he does fulfill the promise of an artist who seems comfortable in whatever he tries to inject his persona into.
He has a crack band with curvy anatomy in the pedal steel, vivid notes in the piano & expressive sounds that fly through the melody & keep it whimsical. A well-recorded set. In a more circus-like Tom Waits showman voice “Rather Go To Hell,” is a kick in the derriere with clever phrasing, lyrics & arrangement.
And no matter who Nathan sounds like his overall performance registers as pure Nathan Mongol Wells. There aren’t many artists mining this vein of music. Each song offers some quirky gutsiness throughout the musical assemblage. It will render the material a curiosity to most but satisfy the musical addiction in others.
This isn’t a novelty act & with songs like “Taken For a Ride,” Nathan tackles a serious country tune & performs it with countrified confidence delicately balanced. Could be of the tradition of Roger Miller or Bill Anderson. Nothing is corny or ornery. These are immaculately crafted & if anything the silliness is that Nathan doesn’t take himself too seriously – there’s humor & it fits.
Twang-factor? Nathan has a little for authenticity but never as heavy as Randy Travis. He does have enough to be a Flatlander like Jimmie Dale Gilmore & “Road To Hell” will rubberstamp Nathan’s rock n’ roll creds.
Highlights – “Beulah Land,” “Juarez,” “Rather Go To Hell,” “Taken For a Ride,” “Knew You,” “Road To Hell” & “First Day It’s Warm.”
Musicians – Chad Stockslager (organ/piano/Wurlitzer), Steve Berg, Billy Law, James Driscoll & Charles J Memphis (bass), Trey Pendergrass & Ryan Muller (drums), Nik Lee (lead guitar), Hank Early & Marco Bartolome (pedal steel), Drew Chapa (piano),
Color images: Photo by Mike Brooks & CD image by Josh David Jordan. The 32-minute CD @ https://www.mongolwells.com/ + https://statefairrecords.com/artist/nathan-mongol-wells/