Blue Country

Blue Country Press Release (2017)

by Bob Doerschuk

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Blue Country Marks An Outstanding Young Artist’s Return

After Ten Years of Challenge and Triumph


August 2, 2017 — From seemingly out of nowhere, a young artist named Nathaniel Street-West flared into view more than a decade ago.

His distinctive writing, expressive vocals and fiery guitar playing drew immediate attention in and beyond his Southern California home. Critics compared him to Bob Dylan — not at all unfavorably. Respected music veterans expressed awe over his promise — legendary drummer Jim Keltner, for one, calling Street-West “a very old soul” whose “journey is just beginning.”

Instead, it seemed to stop just as it was taking off. Years passed with only hints of his whereabouts.

The wondering ends on September 26, 2017 when Puffin Records unveils Street-West’s Blue Country. Spirited, rough-edged, raw and passionate, yet eloquent and impeccably crafted, these 12 tracks confirm that Street-West is back and ready to begin that journey with an explosive liftoff.

Some may describe his sound as a throwback to better times, when music was open to writers of fearless, fiery genius — Dylan, Neil Young, Steve Earle. Street-West claims his place in this pantheon with Blue Country. It’s a gamble, perhaps, in an era where formula trumps originality. But his music can’t be denied. Its spontaneity, rugged live feel and sheer exuberance make that a guarantee.

Much of this stems from the exhilaration Street-West feels after a long and successful bout with near-fatal illness. Born with MPA Vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disease with an approximate 85 percent mortality rate, he was largely sidelined since the release of his 2006 album Witness by a grueling recovery regimen that included chemotherapy and the installation of a pacemaker. Only recently, after undergoing more advanced treatments, has he felt the strength to take the next step forward in his career.

That step takes him to a new expressive level. Gathering the best of the best young musicians in his new hometown of Nashville, Street-West led an astonishing two-day session at 1979 Studios that challenged and inspired all its participants. He brought in only sketches and encouraged the players to add their ideas as they jammed through each song. He challenged himself too, often making up lyrics on the spot that sometimes prompted him to break into delighted laughter at the energy of the moment.

“So much of my writing is improvisational,” Street-West says. “I wanted to go in there with no preconceptions and just have a good time, making good music with everyone feeling good.”

This explains both the immediacy of this music and the invigorating interplay among those who recorded it. Apocalyptic apprehensions, course through “Avalon Babylon” (“Now I wake up so late in the morning. / I look in the rearview. / I see that man riding in tornado weather. / He’s coming for me and you.”) and “Cease Fire!, in which Street-West shows why he’s probably the only artist who can deliver a line like “take care of your self-centered nihilism because it’s truly an interdependent world” and make it real.

Fiddles, cellos, horns, textures that stretch from intimate to raucous, grooves that slip from saloon swagger (“Something On Your Mind”) to somewhere between ska and Memphis soul (“Make It Real”), the diversity of Blue Country testifies to Street-West’s range and to his ability to tie it all into a single, unforgettable statement.

“It’s really Nathaniel’s artistry that got my attention,” says five-time Grammy-winning producer Ray Kennedy, who mixed and mastered Blue Country. “It’s the songs and the way he sings, the way he weaves words and images together along the melody and complementary guitar parts. He’s a true artist, with a lot to say.”

- by Bob Doerschuk (August 2nd 2017).

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