CD Reviews 10 Jan 2006

Aaron Nathans CD Scan0001AARON NATHANS – Same Old You

(2005   Self-Release)

Written by Shelley Peckham

Madison journalist and songwriter Aaron Nathans became a man the day he ate his first grapefruit.  If you don’t believe me, you can hear about it straight from the man himself on his debut studio album, Same Old You.  The Warren Zevon-voiced performer emerges with a handful of love songs, a goofy tale about a Jewish heavy-metal fan and not one, but two songs about ex-Presidential hopefuls.     

I have to admit, this album didn’t do much for me on the first listen, but I definitely grew to appreciate it once I gave it a few more spins.  Nathans is a clever writer and his lyrics are where he shines.  Like any good storyteller, his talent is in his ability to instantly impart importance to the simplest of things and to articulate a feeling in only a few words.  

 “I Remember Howard Dean” is the tongue-in-cheek story of political disillusionment that chronicles the Vermont governor’s ill-fated run for the White House,  beginning “seven years before the scream” right up until he got that big “chance to blow it.” The song was featured on National Public Radio’s Open Mic program during election week. John McCain is the subject of another politically minded (and timely) song that features the question, “Who was the last president who really was a hero?”

Politics aside, Nathans seems to excel when writing about simpler things and simpler times.  From “Good Morning, True North” (one of my favorites), to “American West” (one of his), to summer nights listening to “Indiana Radio” (“Out at the drive-ins / Convertible cars / Buddy Holly and the Crickets / Crackling under the stars”), the album seems to travel across the country, taking snapshots along the way.

Same Old You reveals Nathans as an artist who is quite happy to try expanding his sound from the traditional acoustic guitar or piano songs that weigh down so many singer/songwriters.  Granted, those slow, peaceful songs do make up a good portion of his album.  On a few occasions he tries a more powerful, electric sound on for size, most notably on “I Won’t Talk.”  While a little out of place on this particular recording, it’s nice to see him showing off his versatility. 

Nathans succeeds in capturing some of the positive energy on Same Old You that he brings to his live performances.  The recording is clean, crisp, beautifully produced and seemingly a labor of love, as more than a few friends jumped onboard to lend their talents to its creation.  He sounds like a songwriter who is very comfortable with his craft but thankfully still seeks that extra push into new musical territory.

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