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Music Review: Nathan Sexton – Grave

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On his MySpace Music site, Nathan Sexton states that on his album, Grave, “we threw everything in the kitchen sink into this album and served it up.” That statement perfectly sums up his debut disc, as its songs range from hard-rocking to intimate folk. In addition he demonstrates knowledge of artists from Jeff Buckley to the Beatles, with a touch of Jack White and Radiohead. Solely produced by Sexton, he also plays every instrument except for cello, saxophone, banjo, and mandolin on a few tracks. While not every song works equally well, the album still serves as an ambitious and solid first effort.

Standouts include “Satellite,” slightly reminiscent of Radiohead in its use of dissonance. The crunching electric guitars never overpower Sexton’s voice, which recalls Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. The mood changes with a cover of The Beatles’ “All My Loving,” with Sexton’s acoustic guitar work lending a country twang to the song. He cleverly ends the song with the guitar riff from “Something.” Continuing the unplugged sound, “Defeat” lets Sexton use the upper ranges of his voice, and the song works up to a crescendo, with more guitars and a strong drumbeat building the song’s emotion. Due to its chord changes and Sexton’s vocal performance, “Defeat” may be a good candidate for alternative rock radio.

Those who prefer harder rock should appreciate “I Say It,” which contains a Nathan Sextonmemorable refrain (“Come on, reach out/Touch me if you can”) mostly due to Sexton’s hard-charging singing. The relentless guitars and driving beat recall the ’90s grunge era. Here he demonstrates how he can alter his voice to fit virtually any mood—his screaming vocals contrast greatly with the gentle tones of “Defeat” and “All My Loving.” He even delves into folk with “My Favorite Season” and the title track, the latter sounding a bit like Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” in terms of his restrained singing and the overall subdued tone. But he returns to his hard rock roots with “Waiting for the Night,” which features impressive guitar solos and a throbbing tempo. Blues figures into this track, akin to the Black Crowes, and Sexton’s full-on vocal performance and thrashing guitars should definitely appeal to rock fans. The final track, “Goodbye,” is his most ambitious it contains several songs fused into one: “December Is for Quitters on the Verge,” “Roy,” “The Landscape,” “Leave My Heart Wide Open,” and “We Can/I Can’t.” His goal may be to illustrate his eclectic tastes, how his voice and guitar can adjust to various genres.

Grave serves as Sexton’s statement, an attempt to establish himself as a man for all seasons in terms of sound. On the whole, Grave succeeds in this, although his harder rock songs may earn more radio airplay due to his distinctive vocals and virtuoso guitar work. With his debut album, Sexton shows that he is a multi-talented musician that shows promise. It will be interesting to see how he further develops his skills on future releases.

For more information,visit Nathan Sexton’s MySpace Music page.

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About Kit O'Toole