Singer-songwriter Nate Currin’s follow up to his You and I Are Ghosts album, The Madman and The Poet (out April 15 on Archaic Cannon Records), is an emotionally-charged 12-track collection replete with meaningful, captivating stories full of depth and soul. A concept album divided into two halves, Currin stocks the first half (The Madman) with songs that are melodically and thematically dark. The acoustic, violin-and-mandolin-filled second half (The Poet) focuses on lasting love, light, and hope.
The first six songs send the listener on a journey through Georgia, Los Angeles, Birmingham, and elsewhere, telling of broken hearts, internal struggles, and soul searching. Currin’s vocals are soulful with a mixture of sorrow and anger permeating the tracks.
Opening the album is the gritty, electric guitar laden “Another Love Song” on which he sings, “I grew up hating others til I met Jesus in a Georgia town.” “City of Angels” has a roots-rock ’90s vibe, and provides the backdrop for a woman searching for something other than broken dreams and a broken heart.
A mid-tempo ballad written for a love who left him shattered, “Birmingham” is melodically and lyrically gutting:
I’m lost with you gone,
I drive these highways just to be alone…
and these days that we plan
it’s the deeper things it takes to be a man…
You drive on back to Tennessee
to live your life and forget me,
to swim this ocean out to sea,
a shell of who I used to be.
Southern rock and a noir vibe pulse on “Midnight Train,” as Currin searches for the one who got away. “Ballad of a Horse Thief” paints a cinematic Western tale of vengeance. And The Madman concludes with the deeply intense, emotional, religiously charged “Sinner or Saint,” which packs the internal questioning and struggle as to who one is:
Am I a sinner or am I a saint
‘cause I feel like a misfit on my better days…
from the earthly things that eat my soul…
am I the fire or am I the smoke…
I cross my fingers behind my back
hope my God will take up the slack.
The disc then takes an acoustic turn, beginning with “A Madman or a Poet” — a sparse, delicate, achingly beautifully song on which Currin practically whispers, “So run away with me my love.”
That’s followed by the stunning “She Reminds Me,” which will tighten your heart in the best way possible. There’s also the hopeful “We All Need to Love Sometimes” and the affecting “Ship with No Sea.” The album closes with “Let Grace Fall Down on Me” — a prayer-like duet that is so powerful it might leave you an emotional wreck.
The Madman and The Poet is incredibly human, haunting, and intensely moving. It’s easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far.