Missouri’s David Nail has been on the fringes of success for a while. He first saw chart action back in 2002, when his Mercury single ‘Memphis’ failed to gain traction, faltering outside the top 50, and David was unceremoniously dropped, leaving an unreleased album (produced by Alan Jackson’s producer Keith Stegall) to languish in the vaults. David gave up music for a while, but unlike many artists in his position, he was lucky enough to get a second chance when MCA signed him.
Unfortunately, I don’t like I’m About To Come Alive at all, for two reasons: the production (by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke), which is surprisingly heavy-handed, and David’s voice, which has a slightly nasal tone I just can’t warm to, as well as sounding highly processed at times. The overall feel of the album is Rascal Flatts meets James Otto, a comparison underlined by the presence of a song co-written by Gary LeVox, ‘Summer Job Days’, which sounds like a Rascal Flatts reject. This probably means David has a genuine shot at radio and sales success. He is currently basking in the success of his very first top 30 hit, ‘Red Light’. This is not a bad song (co-written, incidentally, by another up and coming artist, Jonathan Singleton), and I would probably like it in the hands of a more compelling vocalist. Sadly, I don’t feel an emotional connection in David’s version, or believe him when he sings about his world crashing down.
The album was originally due to be released this time last year, but was delayed when the lead single, the title track, failed to catch on with radio programmers. It’s a cover of an alt-rock song, and not a very interesting one, with no country elements I could detect in either the music or the production. Indeed, it is evident from the opening track, the pretty piano-led homesick ode to ‘Mississippi’ (which has one of David’s better vocals), that this is far from a traditional country record, and it stays in much the same vaguely soulful groove throughout. ‘Mississippi’ is written by Scooter Carusoe, David Colehour and Chuck Leavall.
Carusoe seems to be a favorite writer for David, and the pair collaborated on two songs here, of which ‘Again’, a nostalgic look back at youth, is the better. ‘Clouds’ was less interesting. Carusoe also wrote ‘Turning Home’ with Kenny Chesney; this one starts out as a pleasant ballad with piano-dominated backing, with one of David’s more emotionally convincing vocals, but halfway through the production gets out of hand and completely overwhelms the song.
Carusoe was also responsible for what may be the album’s highlights, ‘Strangers On A Train’. Although the song is billed as a duet with Miranda Lambert, which whom David shares his production team, Miranda really only provides a harmony vocal, but she effectively backs up David, whose voice sounds more pleasant than usual. While I still would not call the production on this really country, it is quite listenable with some nice harmonica from Jim Hoke, and the song is pretty good, about a chance encounter with someone who might have been a romantic interest.
‘This Time Around’, which David wrote with Lee Miller, sounds as though it was inspired by the forced hiatus to his music career, as the narrator talks about getting a second chance in life:
“This time around, I’m a little more ready now,
I’m a little bit older, a little more figured out
This time around
I’m aware of the sacrifice it’s going to take
I ain’t afraid of failure ’cause I ain’t supposed to win
It took a while to find it but I’m back again.”
The lyric is engaging, but the song does not sound remotely country, with one of the most artificial productions on the record.
I may not be impressed by David as a vocalist, but he shows from the one song he wrote solo, the closing ‘Missouri’, that he has real potential as a songwriter, as he advises a girlfriend he has let down:
“Every day that you forgive me is just another one you’ll waste
You came here in search of something true
It looks like, girl, your searching isn’t through
Oh Carrie, I pray one day you’ll go back home
To the warmth of southern Georgia where you belong
And leave all the pain you’ve felt from me
Here in Missouri.”
Sadly, this is another track which starts out well only to be derailed by bombastic over-production halfway through.
Another interesting lyric married to an overproduced backing is ‘Looking For A Good Time’, written by Sean McConnell, a Nashville based musician who calls his own music lyric-based roots rock. That’s not a bad description of this song, as the protagonist sympathetically addresses an unhappily promiscuous young woman:
“If Heaven’s where your soul gets fed
Your Hell is an empty bed
But it’s never hard to keep it full
There ain’t too many arms you have to hold
You think that you’re gettin’ love
They know they’re just gettin’ some
And deep inside you know it’s true
But you don’t dare believe it, do you?…
Now all the boys call you when they’re lookin’ for a good time
These days they call it casual
That just means they’ll leave when they get full
They say you’re cool ’cause you don’t care
But in the morning you always cry when they’re not there
You think if they could only see you now –
I swear they’d do it anyhow
‘Cause they’ll say anything to play the part
But they don’t give a damn about your heart.”
Despite my personal lack of enjoyment of this album, David Nail probably has every chance of making it big in today’s radio climate.