You could say that Nate Smith is an artist living outside the mainstream and he’d probably be the first to agree, but his new conceptually styled album Some Kind of Dancing might just be the record to change that. Equipped with eleven of the sleekest most sophisticated contributions to the singer/songwriter spectrum that I’ve heard all year long, Some Kind of Dancing is obviously a record that Smith put his heart and soul into. In telling the story of a childhood, a fatherhood and an insurgence against what we all know to be wrong, Smith touches on so many musical and lyrical flashpoints that it can be hard to keep up if you’re not giving the record your full attention. If you’ve got the time, this is an album that you’re going to want to really explore; you could actually end up learning a little about yourself along the way.
In “The Flood,” which is a bit of a country-rock reboot of the song “The River is Rising” (track one of Some Kind of Dancing), Nate Smith croons a smoky vocal over a glistening metallic beat that is wrapped in old school twang. The music points towards the bucolic, but the lyrics are urban in their delivery and narrative. If any other artist would have done this song I don’t think it would have worked as well as it does here; there’s too much required context to understand its arrangement, and even though I think it would make a fine single, picturing anyone but Smith commanding its rhythm seems somewhat disrespectful.
“The Day Neil Young Died” is another gem from Some Kind of Dancing and acts as a smooth ribbon separating the grizzly “None of These Things” from “Hold,” a rip roar roots rock jam that sounds vintage but swings with a modern groove. What’s special about “The Day Neil Young Died” isn’t just its cutting lyrics, but the way that the music tries to drown out Smith’s vocal only for us to see him resist with an intensity reminiscent of a wild animal. There’s so much love and passion for his craft flowing through his entire body that the energy can become contagious after only a few cursory listens of the song.
If you were hoping for a little bit of countrified punk on Nate Smith’s new album don’t worry – he didn’t let you down. “Goodnight Irene” is brought to us beaten and suffocated by an overbearing hum that hovers over the main guitar part for the duration of the track. What makes this song special is that it intentionally pulls apart any of the cohesive stitching that could make this album strictly marketable to the folk and country crowd. That type of a creative decision is so risky and off the cuff that it makes Nate Smith a bit of a legend in his own right in my book. He’s doing things that other artists simply aren’t brave enough to do, and this September when Some Kind of Dancing is officially released his closest rivals are going to feel unbeatably surpassed.