Quite a bit of time has passed since that conversation between Rolling Stone and Nelson, and during that period much has happened. A lot of recordings, a family, a business and many, many songs. Chances are if you know Beaver’s name, you probably connect it with songwriting. He’s been writing songs and releasing them for the last twenty five years. And if you are one of those people who has heard Beaver’s name over the years and wondered why, Positive is perhaps the collection of songs you should start with. It’s a summation without being nostalgic, it’s stylistically varied without being forced and it’s as current as last week as well as having one foot in those hazy and glorious days of the last millennium known as Austin’s roots rock scene.
Beaver moved through that wild mix of Austin songwriters in the late 1980’s and early 90’s that included the likes of Lucinda Williams, Bob Schneider, David Halley, Hammel on Trial, Jo Carol Pierce, Tony Scalzo, Kevin Russell and Michael Fracasso.
On this new album Positive, Nelson continues the journey with a collection of songs written over the span of his career, brimming with intelligence, humor and his trademark pop hooks. Produced by his longtime cohort, Scrappy Jud Newcomb (Patty Griffin, Slaid Cleaves, Ian McLagan’s Bump Band) in Marfa and Austin, there are new songs (“Positive”, “It Ain’t Yours”) and some written in those early days (“Willing and Able”) and (“Bad Movie”).
Scrappy and Beaver collaborated with longtime Nelson bandmates Matt Eskey and Mark Patterson, but Nelson reports that production decisions and the like were 100% Newcomb’s. “Scrappy produced my first three albums and co-produced the next three. On this album he was totally in charge of interpreting my songs. He kept removing chords and creating more room sonically for things like percussion and background vocals. I’m really proud of the way it turned out.” Other old friends also pitched in, including producer/guitarist Rich Brotherton (Robert Earl Keen, David Halley) who tracked additional music at his Ace Recording and bassist extraordinaire George Reiff (Dixie Chicks, the Jayhawks, Joe Walsh) who also did some additional recording and masterfully mixed the album.
Positive is a sparkling collection, showcasing Beaver’s literate and searching lyrics as well as his unique melodic sensibilities. It opens with the chiming guitars and spare drums of “Well, Well, Well”, a contemplation on his early years with his longtime wife, with Nelson singing “Can we go back a step, where we used to be, I could use some help from history.” “One Tough Love” has an almost hymnal quality, with beautiful back-up singers supporting his soaring tenor vocals. It also shows Beaver’s love of the songwriting of people like Ron Sexsmith and Glenn Tillbrook. The first single, “Willing and Able” is an up-tempo rocker that brings to mind artists like Tom Petty and the Kinks.
Nelson will hit the road this fall in support of Positive (tour dates are below with more TBA). For listeners who’ve overlooked him in the past, Nelson is a revelation, called one of “the most promising writers of the entire decade” on AllMusic.com. His music has been feted in Texas Monthly, Mojo and No Depression to name a few.
September 16 Austin, TX Strange Brew Lounge Side (Record Release Party)
September 17 Houston, TX Continental Club (Record Release Party)
September 21 Knoxville, TN Sweet P’s BBQ & Soul House
September 26 Arlington, VA IOTA Club & Cafe
September 28 New York, NY Rockwood Music Hall