Minor 7th Review of ‘Dusty Road to Beulah Land’
Drew Nelson, “Dusty Road to Beulah Land,” Waterbug Records, 2009
As James Joyce once opined “a man’s errors are his portals of discovery…” Singer, songwriter, seer, sage Drew Nelson has seen his fair share of fire and rain. Born and raised in a small town in Michigan, a Navy veteran, and active in numerous Native American community based efforts — Nelson is in a perfect position to musically document the ups and downs of modern life in these United States and then some. Akin to many of the wisest blue-collar bards of the heartland — think John Mellancamp, Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Robertson, James McMurtry, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt to name a few, Nelson wears his heavy heart on his sleeve — and his trusty acoustic guitar. “Dusty Road To Beulah Land” brims with wistful stories of common folk dealing with love, loss, and the plight of the working-class in an age wherein the greed of Wall Street takes precedence over the needs of Main Street. Abetted by a fine cast of musicians — sturdy electric/acoustic bassist Dominic Suchyta, the weeping pedal steel of Drew “Captain Midnight” Howard, the alluring female vocal triumvirate of Rachael Davis / Natalia Zukerman / Claudia Schmidt, no-frills drummer Brian Morrill, and the subtle, harmonically rich keyboards/electric guitar/banjo of Michael Crittenden — “Dusty Road” possesses a warm, rustic veneer rarely found on studio recordings. Morrill’s double-time rhythms provide the perfect under-tow to “Stranger” wherein Nelson weaves tales of “how a family goes from middle-class to hand-me-down” and ruminates “I try not to hate the new job / Home Depot’s not that bad / it’s just the teenage boss and stupid orange vest that I can’t stand.” “Molly’s Home,” from where the album title emanates, is founded on a spooky drone that melds into a gospel chorus that eases the tension brought forth in the lines “red clay on your hands / toil and tears in the garden / a lovers road side stand / it’s a dusty road to Beulah Land.” With a groove worthy of Music From Big Pink, “Waiting For the Sun” is a perfect blend of electric and acoustic roots rock, especially when the tempo accelerates as the song progresses. Lyrically intoxicating, immediate, sexy (wait ‘til you hear Rachael Davis wail on “Waiting For The Sun”) and musically loose, “Dusty Road” merits a worthy companion to the timeless work of the above mentioned references.
© Tom Semioli