Moomaw - 26
Record Label: Gazebo Music
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Singer-songwriter Nathan Moomaw would be the first to admit that he accepted the reins of being a traveling folk artist from his father, who showed him the ropes of songwriting and performing. Moomaw’s latest release 26 is simplistic and invites people into his world showcasing songs that are sonically lean and produce campfire ambiences reminiscent of Jack Johnson while wafting a gentle sage like voicing with the quality of Sufjan Stevens. Moomaw’s instrument of choice is the acoustic guitar which dresses every track in its loosely flowing gossamer with the exception of “October,” which stretches Moomaw’s legs out into a synth-pop dance track reflective of ‘80s new wave artist Simply Red. Although the song sticks out because of its electronic enhancements, it is a much needed boost in the record because every other song is as languid as a reposing country meadow on a calm day.
From the beginning, you’ll notice that every song title is the name of a month in the year from January right through to December. Traditional folk keys lace up most of the tracks with samples of attractive nuances like breezy chimes circulating through “March,” Americana hues basking in “November,” sauntering harmonica phrases meandering through “December,” and ukulele tones flailing along the melodic strips of “January.” Moomaw’s vocals have a trance-like murmur as if he goes into another world when he is singing. The tempos are very sedate, and many times you feel like you are listening to a tune played from the PBS children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The tone of his vocals is often maudlin but the umbrellas of tambourines and shakers sporadically placed, add a bit of a twinkle to the album like in “September.”
The lyrics have a stream of consciousness flow to them as if Moomaw is reliving memories and making them fresh again in his mind. He has a penchant for drawing analogies and writing poetic verses like in “September” when he relates, “If you were a color you’d be amber / If you were a liquor, you would be red wine.” His songs have a gentle float to them as if they sit on puffy clouds that move them along, purveying a relaxing imagery. The carnival waltz that takes shape through “May” has a gypsy vibe as Moomaw’s vocals echo along the passages as if he is singing in an underground grotto. Other images projected in the songs involve speaking to woodland creatures and nature’s seedlings like in the tune “July,” and the sounds of a country fair infusing “April” and “June” with Moomaw’s smoky vocals being spritzed with light swigs of acoustic guitar and tambourines which have a common link to the music of Nick Drake.
Nathan Moomaw’s album 26 presents him as a street performer artist, which is not a far stretch for someone who comes from San Francisco, California, the haven for folk artists to hone their songwriting craft. The arrangements are sparse and define Moomaw as a veritable journeyman with an acoustic guitar strapped to his back. He can play a song at a moments notice and the song will somehow make you flashback to thoughts that relate to his words. Whatever has been nipping at the door to your conscious mind, will be flushed out and placed in the forefront of your mind. Good or bad, the power of folk music is to be honest to oneself and unveil what sits hidden. Just as Moomaw draws it out in himself, he draws that honesty out in us.