We’ve been listening to Jeremiah Nelson for a good while, but for whatever reason haven’t posted about him beyond featuring a song on a mix back in 2012. He also played on John Statz’s album Old Fashioned, so we covered him in a round-about way here too.
In fact, it was Statz who alerted us to Nelson’s new release, describing it as an EP he feels strongly about. Trusting his word, and feeling an obligation to finally cover Nelson in a proper post, we dove into Whittier.
On first impression, the EP seems a tad gentler than previous release Drugs to Make You Sober. The tempo is undoubtedly slower; the guitars played down a little, the drums are more relaxed and the swinging harmonica set to the side, leading to a sound that is more reflective and mournful, having a tangible end-of-the-night feel. Opener ‘Heart & Soul,’ is a good example, with neat guitar work accompanying Nelson’s crooning vocals. ’Isolation has taken its toll on me’ he sings amongst other lyrics of regret and remorse. ‘Truckers in Drag’ is a slight change of tack – the song is imbued with the weird dream-like feel of a Father John Misty song, as the narrator waits for a storm to pass in Missoula while truckers in drag try to get him drunk. ‘Dog’ has a similarly strange atomsphere, with the intensely satisfying build up from near-slow motion drums to clattering crescendo reminscent of Chad VanGaalen.
Nelson’s lyrical capabilities have always stood out, and Whittier is no different. The temptation with folk music, especially jangly good-time folk music, is to allow the energy be the focus and, as a result, lose something from the lyrics. Nelson has a talent for both poetic and narrative-driven songs that seem to owe as much to the written word and they do folk songs. Indeed, ‘Truckers in Drag’ works like short story, something Denis Johnson might write, with enough images and clues to set a scene and context.
Even the instrumentals, such as ‘Interludes’ (which by definition should be merely filler between the ‘proper’ songs) are intricate and delicate and carefully crafted, proving their worth is far beyond beefing up the release.
You can buy Whittier on a pay-what-you-can basis via Bandcamp.