Review by Michael Morgan, writer and blogger for IndependentSoupRunner.com
There is no better platform than music to document the pain and anguish of life truths; they tend to unravel moments of clarity and sincerity. Lead singer and group founder of American Nomad, Hassan El-Tayyab, leaves it all out on the line lyrically and musically on his debut EP, Temple Sunrise. Along with humor injected into song’s like “Worst Best Man” and “Ramona,” is an unfulfilled passion for discovery across Temple Sunrise that is incessantly sought after even beyond the last song, album-titled “Temple Sunrise.”
Album opener, “Ramona” has a boogie woogie jiggly beat that is straightforward, unexpurgated and country fried. The lyrics are witty anecdotes about a sailor with a fascination for a girl named (that’s right), Ramona. The middle portion of the song is drenched in fast scatting fiddles. They are also a backdrop for fills throughout the entire song. Lead singer and songwriter, Hassan El-Tayyab’s voice has a soothing timbre with a slight nasal twang that fits squarely into the crosshairs of the jumpy, cool swagger of “Ramona.”
“Worst Best Man” is a simultaneously hilarious and sad story about a man left at the altar because his bride is swept away by his best man. The story is told in the first person from the point of view of the jilted groom. The song’s beat is similar to Ramona; its frenetic swinging country-folk aesthetic will make listeners want to dance, whimper and laugh at the same time! “Worst Best Man,” along with “Ramona” are repeat-players and sure-things for fans of humorous upbeat folk-country ditties. While Hassan doesn’t necessarily have Johnny Cash’s shiny and deep baritone voice, he does have Cash’s deadpan vocal delivery that adds to the band’s overall authenticity as a country band. It also doesn’t hurt that the six-person group takes their craft seriously producing tight arrangements with an effortless delivery that will make listeners feel as if they are sitting in a cozy coffeehouse while listening to this album.
“Single Mother’s Day” sounds like an ode to the songwriter’s mother set to a mid tempo beat. It is a heartfelt and cleverly written piece starting out satirically with the epic Dickens intro “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…”. Like most of the songs off of the album, Ben Andrews artistic and adept fiddle glues together the song’s story like an unspoken narrator.
“Hole in My Heart” has a gorgeous harmonizing acapella intro. The song’s refrain is repeated for most of the four-plus minutes: There’s a hole in my heart where the rain comes in. The rhythm guitar swirls with a singular hypnotic chord creating a gospel-like sensation. The lead singer’s voice is meditative as it perpetuates the refrain for the duration of the song; he riffs vocally along with the backing chorus. Another effective part of the arrangement is the bass and percussion stomp pervading most of the song.
If “Worst Best Man” is the exclamation point of Temple Sunrise, album-titled “Temple Sunrise” is an ellipsis; there is much more to come from this San Francisco Bay Area sextet. It’s a mid tempo instrumental that almost acts like a transitional piece. Its intensity is unmatched on the rest of the record and demonstrates the group’s tight arrangement and mathematical musicianship. The periodic crescendos of guitars and percussion are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 acoustic instrumental classic, “Bron-Yr-Aur.”
It will be exciting to see which direction American Nomad takes its next album. Will it take their sound down the darker corridor of “Temple Sunrise,” or will it loiter by the door of upbeat swinging country-style folk? Fans of folk and Americana will not be disappointed by this debut album. Any grooms who have some doubts about their best man’s intention towards their bride-to-be should beware!
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)