Nathan Hamilton Tuscola (Steppin' Stone)
Reviewed by Christopher Hess, Fri., June 30, 2000
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.