The Upshot: Minimalist-tilting songwriter draws inspiration from both Nick Drake and James Taylor.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Like any good shoegazer worth his salt, Nathaniel Talbot takes his marching orders from Nick Drake, even though there’s enough implied personality to make the music his own. Lately though, James Taylor seems to have emerged as a major template, giving the nu-folk legions someone else to cite for inspiration. Not that JT’s jocularity ever enters the equation, but there’s something to be said for the soothing vocals and steadfast bearing that Sweet Baby James has loaned his musical offspring over the years, garnered from the signature songs that are most melancholic.
Talbot, a full time naturalist who spends much of his time running an organic vegetable farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound, isn’t immune to that allure, and so it ought to come as no surprise that Swamp Rose and Honeysuckle Vine, his fourth outing to date — and first to garner wider distribution — draws at least a partial influence from Taylor’s wizened ways. For his part, Talbot opts to keep the arrangements at a wholly low key level, with minimal acoustic accoutrements consisting of mournful violins, spare guitar, mandolin, double bass, and occasional understated harmonies. It’s a lovely mix to be sure, but so shaded at times, the illumination is barely visible. “As The Way,” “Before There Was Blue,” “New Haircut,” and the title track could be offered as evidence, but in fact, there’s little variation from one track to another other than the occasional acoustic guitar instrumental. (In the case of the latter, think Leo Kottke in a metaphysical mood.) These songs exist in the half light, all wistful rumination and contemplative musings. Indeed, a suggestion of sadness permeates these tepid melodies, but the effect can be spellbinding regardless. Can you say “sublime?”
DOWNLOAD: “As The Way,” “Before There Was Blue,” “Swamp Rose & Honeysuckle Vine”