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Exciting Opportunity

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Album Review

Since being hailed as a prodigy by Rolling Stone in the early '90s, Beaver Nelson has released several albums that have attracted positive press but little popular success. The Austin-based musician wrote the songs for his fifth record while working alone on a house painting job. The result isn't so much an album of working man tales but rather the contemplations of an artist while working. On the self-reflective "Bad Man," he offers what could be seen as a career assessment: "I heard anthems in my head/But what came out my mouth instead/Were whispers in the dark/More flicker than spark/Now it's songs in a minor key." While his self-critique might be a bit extreme, he does have a point. Although his songs certainly aren't dreary navel-gazing numbers, they aren't — for better or worse — fist-pumping anthems. "Lord of All That I Survey" zips along with a Fastball-like velocity, but the undeniably catchy song is no happy-go-lucky offering. He lords over little more than his treasured trash and a "straight cerebral rash." The opening number "Overnight Sensation" comes the closest to being an out-and-out love song but it's far from straightforward. With lines like "Baggy eyes, tired bones/Bloody knuckles, pay phones/Dirty hair, warm beer," it's less about the sexiness of love than the joyful comfort of domestic commitment. His music's own unkempt "baggy eyes, dirty hair" qualities often camouflage his fine craftsmanship. He effortlessly follows the Matthew Sweet-ish rocker of a title track with the delicately beautiful "If You Name a Thing It Dies," the latter being a deceptively complex examination of death, life and love. Nelson's ruminations do not bring easy answers. His lyrics sometimes are a jumble of imagery; much like life is a jumble. However, he does achieve some clarity about life. Perhaps the disc's key passage comes at the end of "Perfect String" when he sings: "What I'd like and what I can/And what I do are different things/I'd like to take all three strands/And weave them into them into a perfect string." No longer a young wunderkind, an older Nelson finds himself wondering about life and his place in it, and his search for answers produces some marvelous musical musings.


Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Hailed as a prodigy by Rolling Stone at the tender age of 19, Beaver Nelson nevertheless had to trudge through a near decade's worth of the proverbial hard knocks of the music business and was well into his twenties before he was able to make any headway with his music. By the time he emerged for the first time on record in the late '90s, his music fully lived up to the early hype and established the singer/songwriter as one of the most promising writers of the entire decade. As a teenager attending...
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