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Album Review

NATHAN LEE
Rockin' the Cathedral

Nathan Lee busts right out of the box on Risk Everything sounding every bit as good as Bruce Springsteen or Randy Newman in their prime and if you think that's an exaggeration, you either haven't heard it or you're deaf. Lee has the voice of both with the attitude of Springsteen and the compositional skills of Newman, but what really sets him apart is the gospel soul of Elvis. While this album was not recorded in a Cathedral, it sure sounds like it was, the wall of sound so deep that you cannot tell at times whether he is supported by a full chorus or not and so full that it sounds as if many extremely high-ceilinged walls are giving Lee the sound back many times over.

It fits, given that most of the songs are deeply rooted in gospel, but hear this: This is no blatantly religious album by a long shot. These songs, musically and lyrically, have no in-your-face attitude and no on-your-knees-and-pray message. These songs are more a reflection of Nathan Lee's struggle with Faith and Life and he did a masterful job making that clear. From the opener, the rocking and dynamic Open Road, to the last note of the haunting Broke and Hollow Man, Lee takes you on a ride not heard since Springsteen's last truly great album, to my mind, The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

You want anthemic, like those songs in the '70s which bewitched thousands at various concerts to light the ol' Bic? Bring Down the Fire will bring your arm to full vertical Nazi salute and the lighter will almost jump into your hand, fully lit. The stomp will work down your legs to your feet on Hold Me Down and Wrecking Ball will lyric you to submission. Just catch these lines:

I've got five minutes before I die and this is what I got to say/Everything I've ever loved has died in its own way/Everything's that's held me down did because I let it/I've got nothing left but a crucifix and I'm owning these last few minutes/(CHORUS) I'm comin' like a wrecking ball/I'm comin' like a long black train/I'm comin' like a shotgun shell/Better get outta my way/I'm comin' with a cross on my back/I'm comin' like a hurricane/When the blood's been spilled I'm goin' home/And that's all I got to say.”

Man, that is songwriting! Put those lyrics on top of music to fit and you have a song which steamrolls right through your soul.

Cool thing is, this album is packed with 'em. Song after song, Lee hits you with an open-hearted truth you cannot deny. He makes it easy. You don't have to worry because the songs are about him and his struggles, and he definitely has them.

Hey, I'm an indie freak. Mainstream rock is hardly my thing, but I'm thinking that maybe that's because there aren't enough Nathan Lee's out there laying out mainstream rock worth hearing. Some people think it's all been done, and they may be right, but very very few have ever done it as good as this guy. With sampling and Youtube out there, you don't have to risk anything, either. No likee, no buy. Give him a chance, though, and my money's on buy. When you hear him, you'll know why...

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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