Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy

Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy
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A poet. One hell of a fast guitar player. Lover. A white boy with soul. Country boy. City boy. Son. Heretic. Inspiration. Many phrases have been used over the years in an attempt to describe Nathan Singleton. None of them can quite capture the whole, but like individual colors, they do go a long ways in painting the portrait. With the release of Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts, and Broken Strings, that same complexity and expansiveness are put on full display for the senses. Country. Rock. Blues. Folk. Good time honky-tonk. Moody reflective ballads. Hair-raising anthems. Hope. Despair. Love. Hate. These strokes all weave together and stand against one another in the first album from Nathan Singleton and His Sideshow Tragedy. The new album is a culmination of Nathan’s musical journey over the years, from the mystical darkness of East Texas to the stoned artistic revelry of Austin, from solo gigs in smoky coffee houses to West Coast tours in a self-destructive punk rock outfit, every second of the trek has been poured into the words and notes of Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts, and Broken Strings. It couldn’t have been done alone, though. His Sideshow Tragedy sets the aural stage for Nathan to showcase his deep treatises on love and life. Drummer Jeremy Harrell, who Nathan calls “the one musical constant in my life” employs the strong rhythmic bond between the pair to set a beat that at times pounds and jumps, at others rolls and slides, but always keeps the listener moving forward, silently swaying and bobbing. Gabriel Gonzalez, formerly of Sparta, leant his limitless musical expertise to the recording and production process as well as his prowess on any number of different instruments. Naomi Cherie’s violin softly paints a soundscape that sounds like desire mixed with sadness, but with the vitality of innocence, and Justin Thompson’s bass jackhammers and thumps seamlessly against Jeremy’s drums and the cranking of Nathan’s National guitar. Nathan’s special guest on this album is legendary Texas singer/songwriter Guy Forsyth, who, through a chance meeting, was revealed to be a fan of Nathan and Jeremy’s electric live performances. Forsyth’s amazing harmonica performance turned out to be exactly what was needed to round out “Prisoner.” The sixth track on the album, it has the feel of a front porch shindig and a jug of wine, complete with the sweat, mosquitos, and good times that come with just such a get-together. The rhythm section lays down a fast grinding country-blues beat that makes your toe start tapping, Nathan’s guitar makes you begin to slap your knee, then Guy’s harmonica makes you smile and take another drink from that jug. Live performances of “Prisoner” always bring the house down and the Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts, and Broken Strings version captures all of that energy and excitement, with an infectiousness that could make you wear out the Repeat button on your stereo. Contrasting the upbeat boogie-woogie grooves are the slower and more intense songs that truly showcase Nathan’s trademark reflective and literary lyrics. These songs couple the imagery of classic poets like Tennyson and Blake with the song-construction of Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, or Nathan’s biggest influence, the late cult-hero singer/songwriter Chris Whitley. “Cannibal Choir” is one such track, immediately setting an epic and mystical tone with the opening lyrics “In towers of glass, these enemies will defeat us” set against a dark backdrop of a slow plodding banjo and a sweeping, desperate electric guitar that feels like an injured bird flying through a rainstorm. While that desperation can be felt both in the lyrics and Nathan’s lusty vocals, a feeling of hope always lurks just beneath the surface of Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts, and Broken Strings. Despite it’s somber title, “And If I Fell” is a great example of such sentiment. The tenth track bears a more personal story, a tale of love and sex, told from a startlingly vulnerable point of view. The rising and falling of the strings and the complex orchestration of the entire group remind you of someone who is laughing while they are crying. Or sunshine cutting through the rain. It’s a strong blending of emotions, as our feelings so often are. Love takes on many forms throughout the album, often with great passion and vibrant sexual imagery, but another side can be heard on “Fishing Song.” Both Nathan’s lyrics and the groups’ instrumentation reveal a raw and playful innocence. The sincere story of a budding and nervous infatuation combines with the meandering roots-country music to take the listener to a timeless place of youth and simplicity. Whereas other tracks on the album make you want to lay down with your lover, “Fishing Song” recalls the joy and excitement of those first few touches. Nathan Singleton and His Sideshow Tragedy have accomplished something they can be truly proud of – a collection of great songs that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Each song compliments the others perfectly, without ever repeating anything. The listener is taken on a trip through lust, hurt, happiness, and friendship. Like its title, Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts, and Broken Strings combines a number of elements that are separate yet inextricably intertwined with one another, and that feeling puts you in a certain place, probably the same one Nathan was in when he wrote the songs, or the band was in when they came together to record them. That personal feeling is often lacking in today’s music. These are songs that are to be shared. And enjoyed. So enjoy.
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Average Rating : 3.8              Total Reviews: 6

Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  11/09/2007            
Arthur Rimbaud
Poop sandwich.
Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  09/30/2007            
I think this band rocks!
Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  09/16/2007            
Maybe the reviewer who suggested the bassist was too inebriated should do his homework before writing things about which he knows nothing. Or perhaps he drinks too much to differentiate between talent and another of his own drunken nights at the bars.
Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  09/07/2007            
Josh Jones
The band was alright. Honestly, the bassist seemed a little too inebriated to play. They should get a professional bassist to step in and step up... then they might have potential.
Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  03/28/2007            
Jenni Leder
I love seeing these guy play, they always have so much energy. The new album is fantastic!
Nathan Singleton and his Sideshow Tragedy  03/28/2007            
Jake Spoon
I have seen these guys play on numerous occasions. They're a great live act - very energetic. They're songs are great, too, and they do a number of good covers. And they're eclectic. You'll get blues, americana, rock, and country at one of their shows (sometimes all in one song!).
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