'Even The Hills' is the second album from NATHAN HOLSCHER. Another series of absorbing songs, Holscher fixes his thousand yard stare on the landscape whilst looking inwards, taking acoustic country-steeped folk on a painful emotional journey. His is the voice of the last man left in town. Scarred, torn and twisted lives scream an emotional fragility that's superbly at odds with the strength of the songwriting. The world-weary sense of despair is evidence of an astonishing maturity, as Holscher fashions scenes from far beyond his mere 25 years.
The record gets off to a flyer. ‘My Sweet’ is bright and compulsive, but the infectious melody only serves to make the ache more poignant and prominent.
‘Even The Hills’ is a title track characterised by a rolling rhythm where pastoral imagery is a key feature of the lyrics(a recurring theme of the album as a whole). Enhanced by the hollow, radio mic. reverb, Holscher’s voice is delicate and resigned,
As the record develops, so the strings become more intricate thanks to Joe Bollinger’s banjo playing and the pedal steel manned by Kenny Holycross. Tasha Golden’s fragile backing vocals add delicacy to the sense of sadness that pervades each song.
‘That Was Telluride’ is a short burst full of longing. Heartbreak is conveyed beautifully and briefly, whereas ‘Pretty Words’ is weary and full of regret, concerned with the love-hate paradox and focused on the passing of time. Quickly divided possessions and legal bills, even the huge guitar sound and rattling percussion can’t quite lift the mood of a song that sighs this heavily.
There is travel as well as time (both are measured in mistakes rather than months or miles), but each song is nailed down by a sense of retrospective stillness. There’s a helplessness here too, the sense of being powerless to alter fate or halt a cycle of self-destruction. ‘Too Many Roads’ (the title could be taken as a reason for this) features a tapping echo that conveys numb with shock or extreme apathy but Holscher’s song-writing skill is superlative and exudes quality.
The banjo-led journey of ‘Back To New Mexico’ retraces a trail of emotional destruction, sifting through the mess for pieces to pick up, though there’s no chance of ever finding them all or fixing anything whatsoever.
Straight up, this is a hands-down success, and a triumph of skill and artistry over commercial potential that carries its understated appeal far beyond the alt/country/Americana sphere.