After listening to U.S. Christmas singer/guitarist Nate Hall‘s first solo release ‘A Great River’ it is clear Nate needs a hug. Nate said this release ‘helped me to get rid of a lot of bad dreams. Feelings that pulled me down.’ He must have been carrying around some menacing demons.

The recording of the ten songs sounds like it was a deeply personal and cathartic experience for Hall. The entire album is haunting, consisting almost entirely of just Hall‘s stark and troubled vocals and pained guitar. The relentless drone of Nate’s guitar wears you down, digging into your soul eventually striking at your nerves with a chilling ferocity.

The influences of Young and Dylan are discernible in Hall‘s sound and the songs come across with rare Johnny Cash-like honesty and sincerity.

A melancholic atmosphere weighs heavy on ‘A Great River’. It is painted in grim shades of gray. The album reaches a very somber level on the Townes Van Zandt cover of ‘Kathleen’. Hall‘s voice seems harrowed and pensive and overall the song feels as dreary as the original. Other stand out tracks include the instrumental ‘Night Theme’ with it sense of impending doom and ‘Raw Chords’ with its visceral guitar. I don’t think I could listen to ‘Electric Night Theme’ in a forest at night without expecting something sinister to jump out from the darkness. The curious a cappella version ‘When the Stars Begin to Fall’ is painfully stark and emotionally taxing to hear.

‘A Great River’ evokes the image of a solitary guitarist lamenting as he sits around a fire on a cool dark night surrounded by tall silent trees. *Shiver*. You might think due to the shadowy tone of ‘A Great River’ it would be formidable to listen to, but it isn’t. Yes, the songs are haunting but finely crafted in their simplicity, engorged with sincerity and emotionally coercive. Weary but rewarding, definitely give it listen.

Released May 07 2012 through Neurot

Posted by Dave Guzda

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