Coming out of Portland, Oregon, Nate Allen is a guy that can pick up a guitar or banjo and write a catchy tune quicker than the time it takes to make a nice cuppa. Here we have two albums rolled into one. The first one ‘Perfect Recipe For A Smile’ is under his Destroy Nate Allen guise, and is a duet with his wife Tessa consisting of 10 songs with an acoustic guitar, whereas the second one, ‘Don’t Let This Smile Fool You’ is under his cut down name of Nate Allen, and is written and recorded in his apartment and played on a banjo.
So on the first slice of this double CD we start off with, ‘Anchors Away’ which is a real toe-tapper and reminds me a little of Chuck Ragan’s tunes sung with a less gravely voice. ‘Turns Out You’re…’ really showcases how well Nate and Tessa’s voices go together. The song is a catchy love song that shows you early that they are not afraid to lyrically explain their feelings for each other, and this is done in a silly, but enchanting way, not a sickly throat-chugger way! ‘Recipe’ is about as catchy as you get mixing folk/playground chants with a little wackiness. ‘Loving You’ is another high-tempo song that is up beat and has all the markings of a great song. I can’t say better than that!
‘White Flag’ is a little deeper, mixing in the likes of Rocky Votolato and a stripped down Dusty Rhodes And The River Band, whereas there is a Rock’n’Folk-Punk feel to ‘His Lips Are Sealed…’ that spouts out a feverish anarchic side to the pair that borders on mischievous. ‘Despite It All’ is a fast-pace plod along song that is a fine stripped down tune. ‘Steady’ although slower of pace, sounds like a Punk song that has been slowed down and stripped of pounding drums and big riffs. Of course this song is less than two minutes long so I would think that a fast version would be less than a minute. It could be a song by The Stooges or Racer X. ‘I Am Alive’ is an acoustic Rock’n’Roll song that has flashes of a Religious hymn in the chorus, whereas ‘Smile’ is just a great ending to this album.
Now to the more raw album of, ‘Don’t Let The Smile Fool You’, which starts off with the great ‘Phil Collins’ that has the nice lyrics of, “I’m not Phil Collins, but I might be Henry Rollins-// Banging out, a tune // On this old banjo…”. It’s simple like all of this double album in fact. The one instrument doesn’t complicate, doesn’t distract from the melody or the vocals nor the poetic lyrics. The album title track is again fast tempo and catchy, a little more like Langhorne Slim. ’35, 35, 35’ is pure Folk/Pop and with a band behind it this could be a smooth and great song, which isn’t to say that in this raw form it’s not still a nice song. ‘Guitar Strings’ is a sappy Blues/Folk song, whereas ‘Glow In The Dark’ is a more Country influenced Folk track.
There is a hint of self-indulgence in ‘How To Make…’ as Nate sings a love song about his wife. ‘Grandpa’ is a little more sentimental constantly asking questions, then in, ‘Ain’t Gonna Rain No More’ which could be one of those Traditional Folk tunes that have been passed on down the generations, with a sing-a-long chorus, “How the heck, am I gonna wash my neck// if it ain’t gonna rain no more?”. Things are a little more thoughtful in, ‘Suffer’, whereas the banjo has a beauty that seems to have been missed in the earlier song here, and with a touch of humour, ‘Pardon Song’ is a great ending, a little like if Ben Folds did a song with just a banjo.
What you get here are 20 songs that are simple, catchy and entertaining. ‘Perfect Recipe…’ would get a 12/13 due to it’s good production and foot-tapping tunes. Add to that Tessa’s vocals that gives the songs more depth and with a band behind him, Destroy Nate Allen would have a fantastic album. ‘Don’t Let The Smile…’ is good but would get 10/13 for me. The banjo can sound a little repetitive, and the album recording is quite raw. Half the songs are very good and the others are just good.
This is what music should be all about as Nate shows that he enjoys what he does, and this is music that anyone can appreciate. If you took Langhorne Slim, got him to sing with Chuck Ragan, and Dustin Apodaca, stripped it down to a guitar or banjo then this could well be what you’d get. It’s a cracking good musical offering!
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