The first thing I thought when I listened to This Rider’s Song by Jeffrey Philip Nelson was that this was a nice sounding record - really nice sounding. As I was reading his bio I was dumbfounded to read that he “only records his music in the dark in his apartment on the edge of a busy highway.” (Apparently you can hear the sounds of traffic if you listen closely on the softer songs.) Even more impressive is the fact that he mixed the entire album in a desolate campsite. Not only do you have a nice sounding production but also the songs are more than impressive. Nelson writes heartfelt somewhat somber tales that borrow from both folk and country genres. His arsenal consists of organic instruments such as acoustic guitar, banjo, bass and a wonderful voice that conveys the heartbreak, loss, and sometimes hopeful emotions these songs carry.
The album opener “This Rider’s Song” builds upon an old country type guitar riff as the drums are lightly played with brushes as soft pads float in the background. Make no mistake that this music is built around his vocals which clearly carry the song. He does a good job harmonizing as well as striking the right tone with the music. Not a bad way to start the album. “Where I Want to Be” is a bit more somber than the first track. However, in my opinion the addition of the banjo clearly made this song an enjoyable listen. While some songs like “Starving,” “The Loss” and “Never Leave” can be a bit heavy back-to-back “Where I want to Be” provided me with more solace than melancholy which is what any song like this should ultimately provide. My favorite song, “New Orleans Girl,” was the most upbeat and least sparse. It had a revival, nostalgic type quality that sounded great as the he harmonized with a female accompanist. The album ends with “Big Blue Skies” which put him and his acoustic in the spotlight. It was a good way to close the album. This is the type of album that you probably want to refrain from putting on at your next party because it might dampen the party mood. That being said the album offers a nice variety of heartfelt songs that I would easily reach for on a lazy Sunday afternoon. This Rider’s Song has a good flow to it where no song over stays its welcome and will have many fans shedding a tear.
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