Red Eye Gravy
By Scott Roberts
You have to admire Nathan Beaver’s tenacity. The Atlanta-bred singer/songwriter (now living in Nashville) began recording the follow-up to his 2004 debut CD in 2005 and due to a studio mishap, the 80 percent complete recording was lost. Understandably emotionally distraught and financially strapped, Beaver was forced to shelve his musical plans indefinitely. Fortunately he overcame this tragedy and has finally emerged five years later with his second effort, the likable if unremarkable Universal You, released this past June.
The CD starts out with the near-dirge-like “Piecing Together the World,” an unusual choice for an album opener due to its slow pace. Though the song has a palpable earnestness and features some tasty pedal steel guitar from Mark Van Allen (who adds wonderful touches to many of the songs on the CD), it probably would have worked better buried somewhere in the middle of the record. Fortunately, Beaver picks up the pace on the second cut, the standout “Clever,” a Jackson Browne-ian song that should have opened the CD and would fit in well on most adult contemporary playlists. The other notable track is “Shame On Me,” one of the only other upbeat numbers on the disc and another showcasing the instrumental prowess of Van Allen, along with Beaver’s clear, easy-going voice.
Universal You’s production (by Will Robertson) is often a little too slick and polished for its own good, as are Beaver’s often overly serious lyrics and attitude (an affliction suffered at times by many singer/songwriters), but when he lets go a little, the results are quite pleasing and satisfying. Next time he goes to the studio, Nathan Beaver will hopefully not be hit with any unforeseen disasters and will try to have a bit more fun.