The bio says that Nate Sallie‘s path musically was something that probably wasn’t the main thing on his list of career opportunities. A basketball player with dreams of making it to the top, Sallie suffered two broken ankles prior to the lush college scholarships and letters of intent. Fortunately, Sallie took the chance to get back to music—something he had been trained at. Curb Records liked what they heard, obviously, and this past summer has seen the release of a new album and being part of the national Radio Disney tour. Immediately the ears perk up, don’t they readers. Disney? You mean another Britney, Christina, Justin product on the airwaves? Well, before jumping to logical conclusions, one must first listen to the album.
Beginning with the title track can sometimes be a sign of weakness, with the remaining songs more or less filler material for the catchy single or hit. But Sallie sounds more like he’s been brought up on the likes of Good Charlotte and, dare I say it, Social Distortion early one. The harmonies seem far too polished and the chorus doesn’t quite work as well as it could. But the Green Day meets Sum 41 sound is a surprisingly good start. Justin be damned! The tune grows on the listener and thankfully Sallie doesn’t overdo it on the singing, keeping it air tight and smooth. “It’s about Time” unfortunately sinks like a stone, with Sallie trying to salvage a sappy lyric with an even sappier and sorry chorus. “You watch your exercise videos while you down a bag of Oreos”, has all the finesse of Weird Al Yankovic at his worst. The song also talks about getting “a little crazy”. Well, someone should’ve advised the producers about this tidbit of information as this is possibly as safe a song as you will hear.
“All about You” has another great start and finds Sallie back where he began. The new wave keyboard recalls Blondie or Elvis Costello circa early Attractions. The guitars and rhythm section each find their place early and the song just oozes confidence. “I talk about your face and when I get to see eternity”, Sallie sings before the sugar coated chorus rears its heavenly head. The tight bridge is another standout, recalling the Replacements with Bob Stinson still on bass. This has single-material written all over it and puts the previous tune to shame. But the album ebbs and flows as with “Save Me”, an awful ballad that says nothing at all. Savage Garden or possibly Vertical Horizon would be better off recording this. Sallie doesn’t need tunes such as these to get his message across.
“Without You” is a brooding rock tune that is quasi-nu metal and hard radio rock. “Now my head is swimming with tell tale signs / That my world is going under / Can you give me a line”, Sallie sings as the Lenny Kravitz chorus moves into position. It’s not a bad stab for Sallie to try, although at times he sounds a bit out of his league, particularly after the first chorus. After a bland “Beautiful Surprise”, Sallie takes the album down into an adult contemporary-cum-boy band ballad with “Whatever It Takes”. “I get so lost and lonely when I stray”, he sings as the backing vocals are dropped behind. The chorus is pure pablum as Sallie tries to sound sincere. Small town USA is the fodder on the harder and grittier “What Are We Waiting For”, a line of music and style that fits Sallie so much better than ballads. “Never Again Again” is a funkier rap-rock tune that is light and poppy. It’s another niche Sallie could experiment more with.
On the whole, this album is a few songs short of being very good, but it certainly isn’t what critics might have fun panning. There are some very good songs that fall just a bit short overall. A very decent debut.
// Notes from the Road
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