Nathan Hamilton Tuscola (Steppin' Stone)

Texas Platters

Record Reviews

Nathan Hamilton

Tuscola (Steppin' Stone)

The rural Texas that Nathan Hamilton roams and sings of is filled with ghosts and melodies, a landscape and history that turn to edgy, serious poetry when filtered through the razor-keen eye and mind of the young singer-songwriter. Tuscola, the solo debut from the former leader of Austin roots-rockers the Sharecroppers, is a strong series of country-folk tunes that, from the opening waltz "Cash & Tobacco" to the bleak title track that closes it out, should establish Hamilton as a local voice to be reckoned with. Most songs are done with full instrumentation, the combination of electric and acoustic instruments and Hamilton's straightforward production allowing the lyric-heavy tunes to speak for themselves. And speak they do. "Farmer's Rest" is sad and gorgeous, while "Roots" is a dance hall stomp that makes good use of Erik Hokkanen's brilliant fiddling. "Spent" is built on a great melody, the kind that's handed down for many years. That's something that fills Tuscola: a feeling of timelessness and translatability that adds to the world and tradition of country/folk music. If at times Hamilton seems overeager or overserious, as with "Two Penny Vengeance" or "One Man's List," it hardly comes off as a fault in light of the rest of the LP. At its best, Tuscola is insightful in a way that turns the joys and pains of life into poetry.

***.5

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