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Music Review: Nathan Shaffer – Come Back America

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Nathan Shaffer was born in Indiana and decided upon a career in music when he first saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. By the time he reached high school age he had moved to Chicago and was playing in cover bands. In his twenties he settled on the west coast and formed Rock Royale. The band had high hopes as they landed a recording contract but were dropped by their label before finishing the album. Shaffer then retired from the music industry at the age of 30.

While attending a Paul McCartney concert 25 years later, he had the urge to return to the music industry. That urge resulted in the creation and release of Come Back America.

A lot of years, thought, and sorrow went into the creation of this album. It is dedicated to his son Jeff, 1973-2009, which adds a very personal element to the lyrics and music. The proceeds from the album will be used to set up a foundation in his son’s name to help teens overcome substance abuse. The songs dedicated to his son also provide a counterpoint to his sometimes harsh and pithy political excursions.

His music is close to a rock sound. His use of orchestration veers some of his songs away from rock ‘n’ roll a bit toward a lighter approach, which works well given the serious nature of some of the lyrics. It is an album of old and new as he resurrected some songs he wrote decades ago, which combine with some newer compositions. He is an able pianist and guitarist, but it is his talent as a lyricist and the ability to craft an album that are his best attributes.

“My Little Friend (Jeff’s Song)” was written back in 1982 and is finally brought to life with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. “Prince Of The Oaks” is a study in grief as a simple piano allows his emotional vocal to interpret his words of sorrow.

He travels in a political commentary direction on some of the tracks. The title song is a biting statement about the state of affairs in this country and the disempowerment of the people. “Welcome To Palestine” is an ode to the Palestinian people.

The tracks that fall outside the personal and political arena are a good look into his mind as a musician. “A Better Life” is right out of the Chicago catalogue as it is a catchy horn and keyboard piece. “Lucy” is a soft ballad with mandolin, strings, with an acoustic feel. “Drive The Night Away” has ringing guitars with light lyrics and should appeal to a mainstream audience.

It has taken a lifetime for Nathan Shaffer to release his first album. Come Back America may travel in a number of directions but the songs are well crafted, thought provoking in places, and always entertaining. Decades of experiences went into the creation of the music and it is a journey well working listening too and following.

 

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