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Album Review

"Welcome to the world of the working poor" sings Michigan troubadour Drew Nelson on Tilt-A-Whirl's opening track, "Promised Land," making it clear from the outset what kind of ride you're in for. Throughout the album, Nelson gives voice to the kind of blue-collar folks who have occupied songs by poets of the proletariat like Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, and Dave Alvin over the years. But Tilt-A-Whirl, Nelson's first release for the Red House label, arrives at a crucial time for such a writer. In the post-bank-bailout Occupy era, the plight of the working class (and of those less fortunate than them) has come more sharply into focus than ever before. It's no coincidence, for instance, that Springsteen's contemporaneous Wrecking Ball album turned out to be the Boss' most visceral, impactful outing in years. So if ever there were a moment for Nelson to shine, this would seem to be it. Fortunately for him and for us, he doesn't squander the opportunity, even though he probably didn't view things in that context when he put these songs together. Writing from the perspective of characters like the disenfranchised laborer in the aforementioned "Promised Land" and the star-crossed lovers in the migrant-worker-meets-small-town-farm-girl tale "Danny and Maria," Nelson sounds so natural that it's obvious this has been his métier for a good long while. This kind of writing isn't easy to do without descending into the Three P's: platitudes, pretension, or pedantry. That he's able to pull it off to begin with is impressive enough; keyboardist Michael Crittenden's sympathetic production, splitting the difference between full-bodied roots rock and folk-flavored Americana, puts Tilt-A-Whirl definitively over the top. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Customer Reviews

A modern-day record album

Back in the day, people used to make albums. You’d put it on the turntable, drop the needle and listen to all the songs in order. The record just flowed, and the songs all made sense. The rock songs had guitar solos, the ballads had keyboards, and the background vocals were spare, but tasty. There were hooks and choruses, and at some point you’d find yourself singing along to a chorus because no one wore ear buds back then, and you could just crank up the volume to drown out your own voice.

Drew Nelson has made an album – and a very fine one at that. “Promised Land” kicks off the record with a jolt that’s reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” (the song) or Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow.” It’s a classic album opener that hints at what’s to come. He follows it up with “Danny and Maria,” a rousing rocker with small-town lyrics and an unforgettable chorus that you’ll sing along to in the car or shower or wherever you hear it. Next comes “Dust” with soaring pedal steel and a frustrated anger that’s sure to put more than a few mortgage bankers ill at ease. And so it goes for about 48 minutes. There’s a great driving song (“Lessons”) that just rolls along; a quiet love song (“My Girl”); a country waltz with a drinking protagonist (“What She Does”); and a shimmering, shuffling rock song (“Copper”) with U2 guitars and Brian Eno ambience. It’s a complete experience. It’s an album. Buy it, burn it or playlist it and then listen to it…in order…start to finish.

Drew Keeps Getting Better

I've been a fan of Drew for awhile and he keeps getting better with each album. His song lyrics are insightful and musically the album is rich.

He hits this one out of the park!

Another Great Effort

Hard to describe Drew Nelson. Early Springsteen meets ???. He is a great songwriter, storyteller and singer. You can feel the genuine-ness in his voice. Promise Land is a great lead song on this record and the songs flow well. If you like this album, you will certainly enjoy his earlier efforts as well.