It's tough for me to review this album for several reasons. First, I consider Nate a good friend, and I've been rather attached to his music for a long time; it's difficult for me to look at it objectively enough to write a review that would be useful to someone who doesn't already know Nate and his music. Second, these songs are complex, and I don't feel that I've listened to the album enough to have fully figured them out -- but if I waited until then, I'd never write a review, and even if I did, it wouldn't be relevant to the experience of someone who happened to buy it and listen to it once or twice. So here goes.
Musically, this album is impressive. If you've heard Nate play live or you've heard his earlier albums, you may think you know what this would sound like, but you'd be wrong. These arrangements are rich and full and very professional sounding. Nate's guitar is not very prominent (except on the title track, which is the only instrumental); the main instrumental sounds are bass, fiddle, flute, and harmony vocals. All of the arrangements sound good, and some of them really grab you and won't let go. To be frank, the weakest point is Nate's vocals. Nate sings on key and he enunciates clearly (which is important, because these songs have great lyrics), but his voice is harsh. Anyone who's used to only listening to the kind of singers that get onto major labels may have trouble getting past Nate's voice. To me, Nate sounds like Nate, and this doesn't worry me, but I'm afraid that this album isn't going to be getting much radio play.
The songs on this album are all impressive. The tunes are good, and the lyrics are intricate, well crafted, and full of meaning. There are a couple of funny ones, and a couple that are upbeat, but most of them have a lot of emotional pain. They resonate so much with my own life that it's hard for me to listen to the whole album at one go. Most of the songs are about either troubled relationships or the trouble of the lack of relationships. There isn't a song on the album that I don't like, but at the same time, it hurts too much to listen to a string of them in a row. I need to be able to drop one song into a mix of music now and then, but since I'm still stuck in the 1980's in my music technology, I listen to whole albums when I listen to music.
One other thing needs to be mentioned: This album is a CD-R. It is probably the best-packaged CD-R I've ever seen; the insert and liner notes are very well laid out; it looks as good as a lot of albums that are pressed and packaged commercially. But it is still a CD-R, which is a bit of a disappointment to me, for the practical reason that I don't play CD-Rs in my car player (the car manual says don't do it, and I've heard that the heat in car players can degrade CD-R media), and for the emotional reason that it somehow doesn't quite count as a "real" album unless it's commercially pressed. Intellectually, I understand the economic realities, but I can't help feeling a little bit let down.
In sum, if you're a Nate Bucklin fan, this album is of course a must have. If you're not familiar with Nate and his music, this is a good introduction. It's a solid album, with well written songs, well arranged and well produced. My overall rating: 8 out of 10.