Artist: Neil Nathan
Album: Flowers on the Moon
Label: Pirate Vinyl
Genre: Folk/Soft Rock
Sounds Like: America, Mumford and Sons, Neil Young
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 7/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: Burning a Horse, It Goes On
Strengths: Commendable songwriting skills, great production, all-around talented artist
Weaknesses: Slightly on the fringe of modern appeal, which might prevent large commercial success
Neil Nathan is an accomplished singer-songwriter that has been garnering significant recognition and praise for his musical efforts over the past several years. His debut album, titled The Distance Calls contains tracks that have been featured everywhere from prominent television networks (Showtime and ESPN) to massive, landmark venues, such as the San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium. His most recent effort, a full-length record titled Flowers on the Moon was released in April of this year and consists of eleven tacks that stand somewhere between traditional folk and soft rock.
Although the overall sound of Flowers on the Moon might be comparable in some respects to records from contemporary folk artists like Mumford and Sons, the definitive sense of tradition, presentation, simplicity, and soul in this music identifies much closer with the raw, jangle-like compositions and performances of sixties and seventies soft rock and folk artists such as America or Neil Young. Despite the fact the record just came out recently, the skill and persona with which it was crafted makes it appear to be something not only much older, but also much more unique than a vast majority of “contemporary” folk music being put out at present. The mix, master, and general production on the record is fantastic, and the limited pool of instruments (basic acoustic guitar with bass and a few other small, occasional additions) sound just as warm, rich, and enveloping in Flowers on the Moon as in any other record on the market today, even from some of the largest names and some of the most prestigious studios. The reverb throughout the tracks, especially when implemented with Nathan’s vocals, is particularly fantastic and can be heard at its finest in tracks like “Flowers on the Moon” and “Sugar Man”. In terms of musicianship, Flowers on the Moon is truly a pleasure to experience. Nathan’s vocals are very early seventies Neil Young-escq, however, while Young’s singing was often at its greatest in a raw, limited, and stark fashion, Nathan’s vocals seem to have much more depth, roundness, and fullness to them which makes the vocals on this album appear much more dynamic and polished than what can be expected from a Neil Young record. Perhaps it is this principle of “raw sixties/seventies refinement” that can most aptly categorize the skill, yet stripped-down artistic sensibility with which Flowers on the Moon was created. The songwriting is sincere, clever, and demonstrates the refined thoughts of an evidently seasoned and very professional artist capable of offering a collection of simplistic and creative tracks that also demonstrate smart studio choices and a very respectable level of musicianship.
Flowers on the Moon is without a doubt a record that is in a category of its own. While it might be possible to place this music alongside other current efforts as “contemporary folk-rock” or “soft-rock”, the album also just sounds too vintage and “classic” to be presented as the next great thing that a mass market will catch on to. Basically, for everything that Flowers on the Moon offers, there isn’t really a large amount of pop sensibility to it like some of the other successful folk-rock bands currently experiencing success. This lack of pop sensibility and an overall vintage and seasoned presentation, however, is likely to be viewed by some as a decidedly positive facet of the record as opposed to a negative. Sometimes the greatest music also happens to be the music that doesn’t sell very well, for one reason or another, and Flowers on the Moon might be an album that falls into such a category.
Despite the fact that it is unclear whether this record will achieve large success in a mainstream market, Flowers on the Moon is without a doubt a demonstration of some of the most refined songwriting skills and seasoned musicianship out there, and the talents of Neil Nathan as a creative artist are as numerous as they are unique. Flowers on the Moon is the shining result of a truly commendable performance by an undoubtedly original musician.