Nathan Hamilton
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Nathan Hamilton

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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In a word, damn. Austin’s Nathan Hamilton was always “good”- good in the way you would hope any singer-songwriter with a Kerrville New Folk win to their name would be. But who knew he could be great? That’s not meant as a backhanded compliment; it’s just a real (and welcome) kick in the butt when an artist you think you’ve got all sized up throws you off guard by quietly releasing a record that rocks on the level of Six Black Birds. “Even the sweetest of saints/show their teeth sometimes,” Hamilton sings on “Teeth”- a perfect metaphor for the album’s secret weapon: Billy Brent Malkus, the Texas Sapphires guitarist whose jagged leads lend the whole record a bite worthy of James McMurtry’s Heartless Bastards. But Hamilton’s songs here cut just as deep, and when all the elements- killer rhythm section and B3 included- lock together perfectly on the title track or for the album’s five minute, gear grinding, tour de force centerpiece, aptly titled “The Cut”, the result wrecks unholy hell on your CD or MP3 player’s repeat button. Of course, not every track here carries the same undeniable swagger; some of them take a stealthier approach. But the tension never lets up until the very end. By the time Six Black Birds winds down to its closing grace note, the acoustic guitar strum and quietly reflective tone of “Hanging On” feels like a deep sigh after surviving a thrilling knife fight. - Richard Skanse- Texas Music Magazine


Blistering indie-folk crossover

Hamilton makes a glorious racket, a sort of indie-folk with guitars caroming around like a six-string mosh-pit. The songs never lose sight of the tight melodies that flow through this like a layer of caramel in a Mars bar. The opener ‘Sooner of Later’ and ‘Teeth’ exhibit these tendencies, the latter like Jim White rocking out. What is great about these songs is that whilst you hear echoes of other bands (Jason & the Scorchers, Buzzcocks, Pixies, Richard Buckner) the dominant personality is all Hamilton's.

‘Green & Gold’ takes things down a notch, the guitars still sharp and menacing as is the title track, darker still dominated by the vocal the guitars sparking fuses, curling in on themselves, ready to explode. That would be enough to get a decent review - there’s more though. ‘Now Again’ is a slice of edgy power pop, ‘Frame to Finish’ is a bit of a throwback to his days as a folk troubadour, the origins are well and truly scorched by ‘Burn’ a song with a chorus that makes a Colossal squid look like dolls tea party calamari and you know with a title like that the guitars are going to be described as incendiary - and they are. The song is a tinderbox of excitement just waiting for a spark.

This is a well-balanced set - he doesn’t rely too much on any one element. He’s just managed to arrange everything into the correct pattern and what a pattern. Just sit back listen and watch this one go.
- David Cowling - Americana UK


"Nathan Hamilton's second solo album hangs it's hat on rugged authenticity and individualism. Like Robert Earl Keen and Slaid Cleaves, Abilene native Hamilton excels in capturing little desperate slices of life.  He's best when delving into the messy lives of sad sack protagonists.  Hamilton aims for the kind of dark majesty on many of Townes Van Zandt's most vivid compositions." - No Depression


Once upon a time Nathan Hamilton was winning folksinger awards at Kerrville (back in his Tuscola days). But deep down lay the soul of a rocker, as his band No Deal would prove over and over again (check out live at Floore's Country Store). With the release of "Six Black Birds," fans finally have the rock and roll record they have dreamed of. Thanks also to Whip In's Dipak Topiwala, executive producer extraordinaire, and to Sarah Bork Hamilton for her great eye.

Much as one likes his bluecountry "Texas Sapphires," and not forgetting his punkrock daze, Billy Brent Malkus is first of all an ABSOLUTE MUTHA of a rock'n'roll guitar player. Chepo Pena (who played with fellow Sapphire Rebecca Lucille Cannon in Sincola and also with David Garza) handles the bass, and Adam Tyner (Rockland Eagles) is on drums. Producers Darwin Smith and Erik Wofford add their magical touches, but the real extra energy here is provided by five-time rocker dad Matthew Mollica on the Hammond B3, farfiza and piano. You just gotta see these guys LIVE to get the full treatment!

Musically, this record R - O - C - K - S! But lyrically, Hamilton may have reached deeper into his own soul than ever before. Texas Music Magazine once said that, "Hamilton specializes in lyrics that expose the raw emotions and feelings of characters and the situations people find themselves in."

Here, though, the raw emotions and feelings are his own -- and nowhere are the rough edges more sharply drawn than in the album's final (and only acoustic) cut, "Hanging On" -- "I fixed the hinge, stopped the squeak that kept me from a dead man's sleep, I kicked my shoe across the room to watch it fly and startle you, I saw a smile that you tried to hide, And the tension broke for just awhile."

Indeed, this entire collection of songs is largely about the rocky road of love that leaves us scared and broken and fearful and yet hopeful that somehow we can go on together despite all the terrible stuff we have said and even done -- that the faithfulness counts for something, that it can still be "you and me still hanging on." It's also about learning first why and then how we must love even our enemies else we can let our hatred consume everything we do love. [Remember, though, the artist's license to mix the real with that made up to get his point across, and do not read too much into things, puh-leeze!]

"The Cut," for example, is a dirge that speaks of loss, first of temper, then of hope, then of love -- and it all begins because "I don't mean to be so angry, Truth be told I am just scared, Lashing out at anybody, That has the bad luck of being there." But there is also cleansing -- "And the envy in me, I have lain open the cut, Sucked the poison with my mouth, Turned my head with both eyes shut,,,," Musically, the darkness here is amplified by Mollica's mournful B3 (and which reminds of me his work with Black Water Gospel).

Indeed, Hamilton's admits in "Sooner or Later" we all hit the wall -- a song with a James McMurtry feel until the angry power of Malkus's guitar blows you into the next county. Similarly, in "Teeth," Hamilton insists that, "Even the sweetest of saints show their teeth sometimes" when confronted with those who "wll cram your nose with cocaine and pack your head with lifes .... cover you with roses and fill your cup with wine," but "while they're offering you riches, they'll be stealing your ass blind." But does this "explanation" really work at home?

The anger really soars in "Burn," which begins with a call to torch today's corrupted and perverse society because it's "time to show them we don't care and set it all aflame." And yet later he turns to a more personal matter, a desire to give a bruised love a new chance: "Come on, grab the match with me, Strike it once and we will see, A burning light for you and me, That leaves us fertile ground."

Things get even more tenuous in "Now Again," which starts off almost prayerfully, "Can't you see I'm offering More than a lover, more than a friend, You don't have to be afraid to let somebody in." But as the song progresses, the confession is that, "Memories are luxuries imprisoned in my mind, The sweet sad scent of your sacred skin is all you left behind," and the guitar gets a lot rougher.

Nathan strives against those who will "trade flesh for gold to pay for their sin" in "Enough," reminding them (and himself) that "God sees the heart of a man, but the heart is the one thing you don't understand." "Green and Gold" is a beautifully constructed lament about childhood chums, one of whom chose to "chew the fattest plum" and then "left the skin and seed here for me when you were done." But so what -- "that's how it goes, sometimes, that's how it goes." And you know it is HARD to let it go.

The title cut, "Six Black Birds," is harsh and forceful, with some serious squealing guitar that sets the tone. Yet the storyteller admits, "I am frightened, I am frayed, All I want is to escape this world's pain and hatred too." Of the song's first six black birds, three are for faith, one for truth, one for fear, and one for "you." Later, Hamilton swaps out "fear" for "hope" -- a sign that the tide is turning this fight against anger.

But the crowning achievement of this song collection is the gorgeous "Frame to Finish," one of the most beautiful love songs from anyone in quite a while, and yet one that includes a plea to "walk on and leave these broken things behind, Strewn and scattered here for someone else to find." In the beginning, "I took the hand of a stranger and I looked into her face, It was flush with fear and the slightest touch of grace."

The carpenter in Hamilton had earlier promised, "From frame to finish I'll see you through, From the tempest and the torrent rain I'll shelter you," to the "stranger" whose face at first meeting was "flush with fear and the slightest touch of grace." But the bargain was that "You might just find that I'd reach to touch your pain, On the chance that you might reach for me and do the same."

Finally taking hold of the anger and contempt for the fallen world around him, Hamilton remembers his true self and the promise that love and truth (and faith and hope) will be his guide from now on: "I've never been the kind of man whose worth was in his wealth, I have always taken comfort somewhere else, That don't mean I won't provide a special place for you, Made with my two hands and built on love and truth.... " And with that said, you know the man about whom Hamilton is writing these songs will no longer be just "Hanging On."
- Duggan Flanakin


"... Nathan has always gone back and forth easily between the rock and folk camps. He did, you may recall, win the Kerrville New Folk award in 2000. But, as if to erase any doubt about which side of the fence he’s now on, Six Black Birds jumps out of the gate with a straight rocker, “Sooner or Later.” This song displays some beautiful guitar work, and the subtle, but unusual, background instrumentation makes me think that Nathan may be exploring new ground with this record. And he is. The second tune, “Enough,” features strong percussion as the primary musical accompaniment to Nathan’s haunting vocal. “Teeth” then takes us back to straight rock. It has a subtle organ backtrack and gives us Nathan’s best guitar hook since Tuscola’s “Two-Penny Vengeance.” But lets stop right there. I don’t want to do a tune by tune breakdown. Instead, let me answer a few questions that may have arisen in your mind about this record. Is this a different kind of Nathan Hamilton album? Yes, it is. If you’ve been a Nathan Hamilton fan, though, and followed his solo career, been to his live shows, you had to expect this was in him. Musically it’s quite different from his previous releases, but lyrically it’s really an expansion and extension the broader themes he began exploring in All for Love and Wages. Is there any sign of the folk-y Nathan Hamilton on this record? Hell yeah! In “Green & Gold” Nathan sings: "I saw a broken, black umbrella, just like a fallen newborn bird. Lying in the street, just as useless as a song gone unheard." Nathan the poet is alive and well. Musically, the album’s last song, “Hanging On,” is a beautiful acoustic number. There is a longer than normal gap between the previous song and “Hanging On,” as if to signal that it should be considered a stand-alone. Perhaps he put it on there to show his more laidback fans that he hasn’t totally abandoned his folk roots. What’s the best song on the record? That’s always a hard one to answer, because it really takes many listens over time for the songs to age properly, but, gun to my head, if I’m picking just one, it’d be “Teeth.” It’s the kind of song that I think will still sound as fresh ten years from now as it does today. Six Black Birds is Nathan Hamilton with attitude. In “The Cut” he explains: "I don’t mean to be so angry. Truth be told, I am just scared. Lashing out at anybody That has the bad luck of being there." I can’t say I felt “lashed out at,” but Six Black Birds grabbed me from the first guitar lick and didn’t let me go until the last note almost forty-five minutes later. And then it left me wanting more. - Steve Circeo


Nathan Hamilton's first album in 2000 was undoubtedly Texas-roots country, but the soulful songwriter's fourth CD titled Six Black Birds has shifted into the rock realm.
“I did actually tell the band ‘No twang' on the first day in the studio,” Hamilton said. “ I knew that I would be drawing a line in the sand for many people with this record. If you listen to it back-to-back with my first record Tuscola, then it sounds like a drastic shift. However, for those who have been coming to the live shows in the last few years, they should not be too surprised.”

It is Hamilton's first studio album in five years.
While satisfying the urge for something new, the album still is classic Hamilton with his deep and reflective songwriting. The CD has the insightful and vivid lyrics that Hamilton is known for — such as “While they're offering you riches/they'll be stealing your ass blind” from “Teeth” — coupled with the raw, aggressive sound of his band, No Deal. Hamilton swings between a country sound with the folk tunes he is known for when playing solo and a heavier or indie rock feel when he's with the band.
“Musically and sonically, I was partly drawing on earlier influences and bands I was listening to in high school like the Teardrop Explodes, the Replacements and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. I also have been influenced a lot in the last few years by many of the Euro-pop bands like the Frames, Radiohead and Elbow,” he said. Hamilton also credits influences from his band members — all of whom have played in punk bands — and called this album “a natural progression and not a calculated choice.”
The title track is commanding and abrupt, and is reflective of the entire album that Hamilton calls a “slow burn.” “Frame to Finish” shows the softer side of the album. A slower love song, it shows the range of Hamilton's writing ability while offering up smooth, but not weak, harmonies and accompaniments. With Billy Brent Malkus's guitar riffs and Hamilton's powerful lyrics, “Burn” is like a call to arms, protesting corporate America.
The album wraps up with the lone acoustic track “Hanging On,” a slow, rhythmic ballad played solo but as rich as the other nine songs.

With Six Black Birds, Hamilton shows, he's grown more complex and evolved as a singer and songwriter. He this album is his most personal.
.‘The Cut' is probably the most personal song I have ever written. Many times in a song, even if I am singing in first person, it is still about someone else. In that one, I am not hiding behind a character at all,” Hamilton said.
- Amanda Reimherr


"His first solo turn, Tuscola, had its inspired moments, but nothing in his past could have prepared us for these 11new songs filled with empathy, stick-in-your-head melodies, and unremitting spirit. All for Love and Wages rocks harder than Hamilton has in the past, but his music remains rooted in country and folk. With the guitars of Brent Malkus and producer Ted Cho (PoiDog Pondering) right upfront, there are times, especially on Dirt in theWound and Thing of All Things where they seem to be channeling Crazy Horse on a steamy night. Then, on the smooth, hook-filled opener Dry River and the lazy acoustic 4 Directions,Hamilton recalls the early country rock style of Jackson Browne... All for Love and Wages is a healthy helping of new American roots rock." -The Austin Chronicle - Jim Caligiuri


 
“Hamilton isn’t one of those people who speaks just to hear his own voice.   He has watched the world and he’s worked through the chaos; now he’s simplifying it for and explaining it to the rest of us….Hamilton’s second solo cd All For Love & Wages, contains 11 rootsy tracks that herald the new generation of Texas-style folk.” - Weekly Alibi


“Townes, Guy, Butch, Robert Earl, Lyle- the list of talented Texas songwriters is impressive and seemingly endless.  After just two solo albums, Nathan Hamilton has secured his place on this Texas troubadour list." - Country Standard Time


Album: 'Receive' -  Label: 'irondustmusic'
-  Genre: 'Alt/Country'

Our Rating:
Nathan Hamilton: Receive (irondustmusic www.nathanhamilton.com)

    A little gem from a new voice to me; a quick check on the web reveals that this Austin-based performer is, in fact, about ten years into his career and that Receive will be his fifth release. Starting from country/folk roots he has apparently moved more towards what Americans describe as an indie rock sound. Well there's certainly plenty evidence of a rock edge and drive here, but his roots are certainly showing, too. Just seven songs of high quality combine a Guy Clark-like fondness for characters and story-telling with a very twenty-first century musical approach. Three tracks of random radio stuff ("reception#1", etc) don't make too much sense to me; I guess it's an attempt to make the songs seem like random unknown voices from the ether too. Nonetheless, bags of atmosphere are conjured from some pretty sparse ingredients; Nathan's warm, slightly fractured vocal on Cinders is sung right up against the mike and supported by an arrangement of great delicacy shot through with steel - reminiscent, I suppose, of one of Lou Reed's painfully intimate songs. If Cinders was on your mp3 and popped up out of the blue I think you'd have to stop what you were doing to drink it all in.
   Weary World, on the other hand, demonstrates an ability to make an apparently simple, straightforward tune and lyric carry an awful lot of emotional weight, not an easy trick to pull off whilst Change could have come from Nels Andrews' songbook; it has a similar weighty, considered style to the acoustic guitar sound, an echo-laden pedal steel for the atmosphere and an acute sensitivity for the disappointments experienced in real lives - a long way from the vacuous optimism of pop music. Receive, in contrast, gets the electric guitar brought out and a pretty fuzzy, heavy sound backed by a thumping drum; Nathan's vocals have the edge required for a very good rock voice and the warmth that draws you in for the quieter, folkier songs. It's a slow-burner, this one, and it'd be well worthy buying or downloading what you can and familiarise yourself with Nathan Hamilton's style before you check him out live; there's hidden treasures here and I think the man could be a real find.

John Davy www.nessmp3.com/music/biscuitsandgra - John Davy


Discography

2011- "Beauty, Wit & Speed"
2010- "My Brightest Diamond" (single)
2010 - "Trick of the Light" - w/ Good Medicine Band
2008 - "Receive"
2007- "Six Black Birds"
2003- "LIVE at Floore's Country Store"
2001- "All for Love & Wages"
1999- "Tuscola"
1997- "Spirit of the Sharecroppers" - w/ Good Medicine Band

Photos

Bio

Nathan Hamilton was born and raised in Abilene,Texas. He currently resides in Austin. He has been performing music professionally for 16 years. During that time he has released six albums on his own and two as a member of the Good Medicine Band (aka Sharecroppers). He was a winner of the 2000 Kerrville New Folk Award and a Top 5 Finalist in the 2008 Independent Music Awards. Nathan tours internationally both solo and with his band No Deal. His latest CD entitled, "Beauty, Wit and Speed" will be released in October, 2011 and recently debuted at #10 on the Euro Americana Chart.
The album was co-produced with engineer Britton Beisenherz (Monahans, Milton Mapes, Doug Burr, Seryn) at Ramble Creek Studio in Austin,Texas. A wonderful group of artists took part including Kevin Russell (The Gourds) on mandolin, Jeff Lofton on trumpet, Greg Vanderpool (Monahans) and Amy Cook on vocals and many more. The result is a collection of some of Nathan's strongest songs yet, set to a multifaceted, oft times lush and sometimes sparsely lit sonic soundscape.

Full Bio:

My earliest musical memories are of my father playing guitar and singing songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. He played in country bands when he was younger. I also remember my mother singing hymns around the house. My first performance was at six years old, singing in church with my father. I also have a distinct memory of laying in the backseat of the car, traveling at night, looking out the window at the stars and listening to Ray Price on the radio. I was born and raised in Abilene,Texas. But my parents were both from East Tennessee, so bluegrass and mountain music were a big influence. The storytelling tradition was deeply instilled. I grew up hearing family stories about tobacco farmers, soldiers, preachers, moonshiners and more. All of these relatives and tales would shape the imagery and ideas in much of my music when I began writing. I grew up in the church so biblical themes would begin to make their way into my songs as well.
My older brother was always turning me on to new music, everything from Elvis Costello to Jimmie Dale Gilmore. He is a musician and played in many rock and blues bands throughout Texas. He played bass with Texas guitar hero, Jesse Taylor in his band “Tornado Alley”. When I was in high school the band came through and stayed at our house. They all slept on the floor and ate dinner with us and even came to see me perform in the school musical. It was pretty great to see this band of long haired, tattooed, road weary rockers sitting on the front row of a high school theater, hooting and hollering during the show. Then they all piled into the van and headed down the road to their next gig. I think I was hooked on the idea of traveling around playing music right then and there.
In 1987 I moved to Dallas,Tx where I began going to art school. It was then that I discovered, through punk and new wave, a new shade of influence in songwriters like Julian Cope, David Sylvian, Ian McCulloch and Lloyd Cole. I began to write my own songs at this time blending these influences with the American songwriters I had recently discovered like Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits and working to find my own voice. I started playing open mics in Dallas.
Later, I dropped out of art school, moved to Los Angeles, California and started playing the coffeehouse scene there as well as writing and performing with a local theater company. In 1992 I discovered a new batch of musicians. Joe Henry, James McMurtry Peter Case and Chris Whitley were all influences that would fuel me even further to write and perform my own songs. Two years later I moved back to Texas, this time to Austin and devoted my time and energy to songwriting and singing. I met up with my childhood friend from Abilene, Marc Utter and we began performing as a duo. Shortly thereafter we met brothers Bill and Jim Palmer (now of Hundred Year Flood) and we began playing together as “The Sharecroppers” we eventually met and added multi- instrumentalist David Sawtelle and percussionist Ron Mann. We performed all over Texas, sharing stages with everyone from Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Blue Mountain, Joe Ely and The Dixie Chicks. We recorded an album “Spirit of the Sharecroppers” with producer Lloyd Maines and released it under the name Good Medicine Band (we had to change our name due to an already existing band called TheSharecroppers.) The album was released in late 1997. The band split up in the spring of 98 and I began performing under my own name.
I put together a new band and with the help of Ted Cho ( of Poi Dog Pondering) recorded my first solo album, “Tuscola”. It was released in 1999 on the Austin based label Steppin’Stone Records. Both regional and national touring followed and the album received strong reviews. In 2000 i was honored to be chosen as a winner of the Kerrville Folk Festivals "New Folk Awa