My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: David Nail – ‘I’m About To Come Alive’

I'm About To Come AliveMissouri’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.

Grade: D+

20 responses to “Album Review: David Nail – ‘I’m About To Come Alive’

  1. Robert E Filhart August 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Hope, Hope, Hope…i have to strongly disagree with you! I bought this record yesterday and have listened to it 6 or 7 times already and am listening to it as we speak. I think this is one of the strongest debuts from a new artist this year. I am not sure where you listened to it at, but I suggest you put it in the car, roll the windows down and listen to it again. I love his voice and 90% of the songs.

    I do hope you will give it another shot.

    B+ at least!

  2. J.R. Journey August 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I liked this album a little more than you did, Occasional Hope, but it’s still not one of my favorites of the year. The production was definitely a bit much, but there are some good songs, ‘Missouri’, ‘Strangers On A Train’, and ‘Looking For A Good Time’ among them.

    I’d probably say it’s a solid C album.

    • Razor X August 19, 2009 at 11:32 pm

      I finally got around to listening to the album, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I think Occasional Hope hit the nail on the head. I don’t like it at all. Extremely tedious to listen to.

  3. idlewildsouth August 19, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I absolutely love “Looking For A Good TIme”, though I must say, the production is pretty over the top.

  4. Matt B. August 19, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I was surprised about the production choices on the album too (particularly with who was producing) but still generally like it, even if I don’t think the album will necessarily stick with me for too long (“Red Light” seems to be though).

    Occasional Hope,

    Your kind of ‘negative review’ is NOT what I wrote about in my post that CM paraphrased at Country California. You wrote passionately about it without any obvious sarcasm. I’d actually use this review as a perfect exhibit for Constructive criticism. Not criticism for the sake of criticism.

  5. Trailer August 19, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Surprising confession: I actually really like “Red Light” so I was planning on checking this album out. This review puts something of a damper on my expectations, but we’ll see. Nice review!

  6. Matt B. August 20, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Trailer,

    If you like that song, you’ll possibly like 4-5 of them. maybe. Perhaps listening via a listening party is in order or something…

  7. Summer September 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I think you are completely wrong about “I’m About To Come Alive”. Although it may not be your traditional country record(which few are these days), it does not deserve the same kind of criticism that the pop-rock influenced albums we see way to often these days are receiving. I can sometimes understand where the criticism is coming from when people talk about the Jason Aldeans of today who are losing their country foundation in an effort to broaden their appeal. Doesn’t mean this isn’t good music though. But Nail’s album, if anything, only highlights the blues roots of which country music came out of. The song “Strangers on a Train” is definately one of the more notable songs on the album and will hopefully be a forthcoming single. The closing track “Missouri” is a deep and emotional song that Nail wrote where he creatively pronounces his home state as “misery”. This album is definately worth the money – You won’t be disappointed!

  8. Corey September 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    David’s album “I’m About to Come Alive” is great. I couldn’t disagree with Occasional Hope anymore. He does have the ability to make you feel like you’re there. What are you thinking Hope?

  9. Rocky October 1, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I completely disagree with the grade. This album is captivating, young, and alive, I have enjoyed every track on this project and look forward to future albums from David Nail. I do have a suggestion though, Get your batteries checked in your hearing aid. Thanks

  10. Benny October 2, 2010 at 8:29 am

    yeah I know this review is old, but I just saw this bumped so thought I would comment that I also disagree. It’s wrong to criticize this on the level of “Countryness” because it’s clearly not intended to be traditional or appeal to purists, I see him more in the tradition of Glen Campbell whom he cites as a big influence and his southern roots are still obvious when you hear the album.. also think the “samey” groove is a plus for consistence and ‘album’-feel.. to me it’s one of the best debuts of the last years and much more gritty and appealing than the bland Country-Pop that Lady A, R.Flatts, and K.Urban are putting out.. looking forward to more of him!
    wrote my own review here btw.: http://rateyourmusic.com/collection/Benimal/rating30406598

  11. Beth Sims January 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I love this album! I still listen to it all the time. I find it very refreshing, and honest. I totally feel these lyrics in his voice. I cried the first time I heard “I’m About to Come Alive” and “Strangers on a Train” is incredibly sexy. I was surprised to see the mediocre reviews. In my top 5 favorite albums in the last 10 years!

  12. Jeremy February 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I stumbled upon this blog after searching for a good country music blog. I read a couple of reviews, i.e. Tim McGraw and Lee Ann Womack albums, and thought you had some interesting comments and I appreciated your obvious love of country music, including traditional country. But wow, my interest suddenly turned to shock and awe after finding this review of David Nail’s first album. Let’s put aside the fact that it was my favorite album of 2009, for all genres, as well as the fact that there are very few albums I have played front to back as often, ever.

    Instead, I think we should discuss your idea of ‘country music’ and what makes a good artist or song. The best thing for you to do is to put a disclaimer on your blog that states your standards up front–that you prefer traditional country over modern country and that modern country sounds “artificial” to you, meaning fake traditional music. So then you want have to trash the artist and his production team to the point where the reader’s left wondering if this is a personal vendetta: “no country elements I could detect in either the music or the production”; “far from a traditional country record”; “the song does not sound remotely country”; “one of the most artificial productions on the record”; “overproduced”. I get your appreciation for traditional country music. Some of my favorite songs are by George Jones, Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Lee Ann Womack, Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, and many current artists. And I get that this style of music is a standard you’ve set as “good” country music. But you don’t get to define a whole genre for the rest of us. “Elements” of country music can mean something completely different to two people.

    Furthermore, the disclaimer should say that your dislike of modern sounds or production greatly influences your ability to recognize a great voice when you hear it. At least that way we’ll have some insight into what initially seems as though we’re reading the thoughts of someone without ears. I was floored when I read statements like, ‘Red Light’ would have been better off in the hands of a “more compelling artist”, or describing his voice as having a “nasal tone.” I can 100% appreciate the fact that everyone has different styles of singing voices that one appreciates more than others. But lacking emotion and nasally are pretty harsh critiques of someone who is considered to be one of the great male voices in Nashville today. I mean, come on. Why would so many great country artists today be working with him? Maybe you should ask Alan Jackson’s production team, or Miranda Lambert, or Lee Ann Womack, or Kenny Chesney what they think of his voice. You seriously lost credibility with this one, and I would think about removing the review if possible. Just sayin’. Maybe you can redeem yourself with a review of his new album, which by the way, is fantastic.

    • Razor X February 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      So in a nutshell, you’re saying we should remove this review from the site because you disagree with it?

    • Occasional Hope February 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you for reading, even if you didn’t agree with this particular review. I’m afraid this one just didn’t work for me, mainly due to the production (I did acknowledge the quality of the songs). You may be pleased to know that I can appreciate the tone and quality of his voice much better on his latest single even though the production is still va bit cluttered for my personal taste; and that leads me to think that the production/mixing may have affected the sound of David’s voice on I’m About To Come Alive – for me, at least. I did go back to revisit this album but regretfully it still strikes me as it did in 2009. I don’t necessarily want everything to be traditional, but I definitely prefer something stripped down rather than buried in sound, and I think that was clear from the original review. I’m afraid we’ll have to remain in disagreement on this particular record, but I’m happy you enjoy it so much.

      • fuzzyejj October 8, 2014 at 11:59 pm

        David Nail has the best, soulful voice that I have heard in years. I have all 3 of his albums and can hardly wait for another one, I play them over and over. I have gone to see him in concert and he sounds as good in person as he does in studio. The song “I’m about to come alive”, I have played the version by Train and by David Nail to friends and have had them pick the one that sounds the best, and everyone always picks the version that David sings! I am sick of the “new country” like Jason Aldean’s “Burning it down”. That’s not country, its vocal porn. I like Jason, but when that song plays on the radio, I change channels.

  13. Cindy gast July 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Who is this rude person? I am seriously sick of musical snobs! I absolutely love David Nail’s voice as well as his song choices. All I have to say for this reviewer is,get a real job!

  14. Nicholas Crossette April 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

    You must be the worst music critic I’ve ever read. David Nail is easily one of the best new artists and he actually sings country music unlike so many others who sing pop songs made country. Perhaps you should find a new genre of music to critic, because the few albums that I’ve seen you review you completely miss the mark.

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