Expectation can be a tough frame to remove. Guilt arises when you feel that you’re not living up to a certain standard, and fear causes anxiety when you feel like you’ve lost yourself or can no longer discern whether an expectation is based on external opinions or your own. The pressure of general expectation can be overwhelming and often lead to destructive decisions. Sometimes to free yourself from the shackles of expectations, you need to walk away.
Nate Sabat, bassist in the popular progressive acoustic band Mile Twelve and an accomplished musician and graduate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, tackles his own challenges and comes up with several conclusions as he documents the process of self-discovery and acceptance in Walking Away.
Sabat drew heavy inspiration from David Bowie’s Blackstar to structure his six-track album as a complete concept project, as opposed to a short collection of songs without synergy. Across these six tracks, you hear a wide array of musical influences that range from jazz, rock, bluegrass, and folk. Sabat says that The Stanley Brothers were also a major influence for Walking Away. “There’s something about the spirit of The Stanley Brothers’ music that has really stuck with me ever since I first heard it. There’s some deeper meaning in their sound that is indescribable with words,” Sabat says. The tracks that begin and end the album are obviously the most Stanley Brothers inspired, and perhaps that’s intentional, to best emphasize the spirit he’s so drawn to.
The influence of Blackstar is apparent in “Teenage Daydream,” where the horns frame the tune and where additional influences of Becca Stevens’ subtle metric shifts and Dvořák’s chamber music sound make their appearance.
On “Morgan,” Sabat strips things down to only guitar and vocals as this deeply personal tune uses extensive imagery to paint an emotional picture reflecting on his memories and fondness for a former significant other. Sabat offers George Harrison as perhaps a subconscious influence for the vibe of this tune.
The next track, “Streetlights & Lamplights,” changes points of view as the narrator becomes the observed. Invoking Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell grooves, the observer sees a man indulging in excesses and neglecting his family as the observer notes gradually increasing disappointment in the narrator. The song effectively acts as a sort of “ghost of Christmas future,” where the narrator can now observe objectively where his life may go if he doesn’t change his ways.
As the search for his truths pick up intensity, “The Darkest Hour” conjures a mix of Scandinavian folk music, hard rock instrumentation, and jazz harmony. This is a moment of truth where it’s the darkest just before the dawn as the narrator reflects on all he’s digested thus far and seemingly is going a bit crazy in the process, too. Yet, there’s a fierce perseverance and optimism that takes him past the intensity to ultimately the final tune, “Angel Band,” which not only brings the vibe back to where the album started but also is a reconstruction of one The Stanley Brothers’ most famous tunes.
As the album hits its denouement, it becomes clear that within only six tunes, Sabat has effectively constructed a short but dense epic through the mind and experiences of a man looking to forgive his past and travel fearlessly into his future.
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