Drew Nelson- Tilt-a-Whirt review

Drew Nelson Tilt-a-Whirl Red House Records

The world is full of singers we’ve never heard. One of the most recent to come my way is Michigan’s Drew Nelson.

Like hundreds of other under-heard songwriters, Drew Nelson has been playing the clubs and festivals for years. Signed now to influential independent Red House, Nelson’s blend of John Mellencamp-roots rock and Kevin Welch-country balladry is a winning combination.

Without pretension, Nelson has created eleven blue collar songs that tell his truth through characters and situations that are universal. “Promised Land” explores the hand-to-mouth existence of under-employed and itinerant workers while “Danny and Maria” is his “Jack and Diane” drawn from the experiences of the same population.

The album reaches its pinnacle mid-set with the five-minute epic “5th of September”. Quietly sung over minimal accompaniment in the voice of a combatant- is it 1862 or 2007?- Nelson reveals but a little of the thoughts and emotions within one man’s mind and soul as he faces death in battle.

Like those who have traveled similar paths, Nelson well knows the value that a tight, talented band can bring to a recording. Notable amongst those present are the contributions of producer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Crittenden and drummer Brian Morrill.

Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen are inevitable, if flawed. Still, with the album’s final three tracks and especially “Copper” and “My Girl (Shooting Star Wishes),” Nelson approaches the inventive qualities of Springsteen’s stream-of-consciousness workingman’s poetry.

If Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball is a bit too esoteric for your tastes, Tilt-a-Whirl might do- it has a tighter aural focus than Springsteen’s latest, but is no less engaging and enjoyable.

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

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