Nathan Kalish | Songs for Nobody | (Independent)
4 out of 5
Nathan Kalish could have called it quits. Instead of caving when times were tough, he doubled down and pushed through the road-weary trials and real-life tribulations. A mistress named music always kept him hooked, and now, he eyes his 10th studio album. A self-produced 10-piece, Songs for Nobody peers through the dust-filtered, bug-coated windshield of his touring van and sculpts various tales from the open road.
He scuffles his boots through barren American dirt ─ kicking up the topsoil of greed (“No Hope”) and small-town woes (“Pam & Tim”). “I used to go to church on Sunday / Now I’m working for that overtime pay / It’s the only thing that can keep the Taxman away,” he depicts on the former.
With the latter, a character study into the working class, he zooms in on Pam and Tim’s tragically common distress: “Pam she works mixing them powder coats / All day she’s breathing in chemicals / For 15 years, she’s been coughing up strange colors / On her shower in her truck and at church / That’s just life working in the US of A / When you got bills to pay / You’ll probably get cancer some day.”
Recorded at Nashville’s Trace Horse Studio, Kalish’s Songs for Nobody blooms into songs for everybody. “Independence Day” writhes in the deterioration of freedom, a heaviness that has seeped into every facet of American life these days. “Some teenagers take LSD / And blow up the neighborhood’s peace / A dog sits alone in a house in a puddle of its own piss,” he sings, never one to sidestep the gritty details. Mass melancholy is just how things are now.
He then concentrates on abandonment of war veterans, a thick disgust in this voice, “All gave some and some gave all / But the ones that did make it home / Are getting drunk alone in a garage or basement shaken.”
Kalish rattles you to the core, and he’s unafraid to make you squirm ─ or at least jolt you awake. Honky-tonk rambler “Songs for Nobody” snapshots his struggle as a working musician and underscores with humor to break the tension. “Maybe If I wasn’t dead inside, I would stay with you for the rest of my life / But I’m just passing by / Playing songs for nobody,” he bellows.
Songs for Nobody packs a punch ─ from classic ditty “Delta Woman,” born from real Johnny Cash lyrics, which Kalish spotted while touring Sweden and later fleshed out on his own, to the tear-stained “Don’t Confuse Me,” a duet with Lucy B. Cochran. The list of musicians is impressive; those are Karen Anne (double bass, electric bass), Daniels (fiddle), Adam Kurtz (pedal steel, electric guitars), Nathan Baker (andolin, archtop guitar, baritone guitar), Danny Pratt (drums), Zach Vinson (keys), Laur Joamets (telecaster), and Preston Cochran (bass).
This far into his career, Kalish continues to delight and prove he belongs here more than anybody.
Photo Credit: Amy Thorne