Digging up the scars
Mature, Gentle and Powerful Release From a Musical and Artistic Polymath
Known for his production work for artists such as Mary Gauthier, Amy Speace, Rod Picott and Kim Richey, Neilson Hubbard is very much a performer in his own right as a solo artist and only recently, a key member in the Orphan Brigade.
That list of names is a good benchmark for the music contained on “Digging Up Scars” – it’s warmly produced, intelligent songwriting.
The difference here with his previous work is the addition of textures – most notably pedal steel, some brass and strings, which sees Hubbard exploring similar sonic territory to Ireland’s Declan O’Rourke.
“Our DNA” the opening track, is an exploration of connection and hope and it’s this examination of the universal and the personal and emotional which pervades the whole album. Sweeps of pedal steel and orchestral strings give the song even greater dignity and scale – and this is seen in even more grandiose style on second track “Where You Been?”
Title track “Digging Up The Scars” is a discussion of self-revelation – both individually and in a relationship – but the core to this revelation has to be an acceptance of “who we are”.
“Love Will Drown You in the Wake?” claims
“you keep looking back over the shoulder”
and is a late night rumination on time, nostalgia and love.
“The End of the Road” skirts with similar notions of mortality and is musically more minor key but with a tonal and lyrical loving acceptance of that same mortality.
“Fall Into My Arms” offers emotional consolation and is musically more upbeat too, whereas “Wide Eyed S” is an acceptance of a friend/lover’s need to spread their wings – again, the uses of strings add scale and scope to underscore the message.
The most musically cheery number “Don’t Make Me Beg” is a good-humoured request for connection and support and its vibrant chorus supports message and mood.
The musical and lyrical tone becomes more reflective on “Nobody Was Home” with its refrain of “lately I’ve been feeling alone” – the gentle but insistently catchy melody creates a beautifully melancholic mood.
“Before the Moment’s Gone” is a carpe diem celebration, of living in the moment before the final track “Slipping Away” takes things out with quieter musings on the transient nature of things, backed by distant strings and warm, close-mic-ed vocals.
Forthright confession here – on a first listen, this album didn’t immediately grab me, but with repeated listens, just like people used to say in the old days; it’s one that you have to “get into.”
Neilson Hubbard is a detailed artistic observer and participant as his music, photography and production all show – horses for courses and for me, this is ideally best heard with a glass of your favourite tipple in a warm, candlelit room in order to explore the spaces between the dark and the light.
There’s a lot of interesting sonic detail and the close, warm vocals act as the voice of a conversation with a close friend.
Review by Nick Barber
Released April 23rd 2021
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