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Nathan Xander

The Fear

(Deep Elm; US: 19 Apr 2009; UK: Import)

Midway through this collection of mostly-acoustic, vaguely folky songs, the band shows up. Suddenly the meandering tunes and Dylanesque honking is transformed into a rich bluesy stomp entitled, appropriately enough, “The Alchemist”. It’s the record’s best song by a mile, but unfortunately its arrival does not indicate a sudden acoustic-to-electric dichotomy a la, say, Rust Never Sleeps. (Hey, we can dream, right?) Instead, the band retires into the shadows again, offering only tasteful drum and bass punctuation, and Xander’s voice takes center stage. That voice is the weakest link in the mix, though, and the songs are not well served by it. Some, like “John Wayne” and “A Long One” offer an affecting sense of regret, but too many others just noodle along pointlessly, and the record withers away rather than actually delivering the listener to anyplace compelling.


DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.

Nathan Xander - The Alchemist
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