You could almost make the argument that the current trend of infusing R&B and soul into mainstream country has a little bit to do with the success of David Nail. Singles like the Top 10 hit “Red Light” or the Grammy-nominated “Turning Home” from 2009’s I’m About To Come Alive felt like they had more than a little in common with the classic southern blues sound of artists like Joe Cocker or the Allman Brothers Band, and yet they succeeded in connecting with the country audience.
On The Sound of a Million Dreams, David’s second studio album that’s due in stores next week, the Missouri native expands on the bluesy, soulful country of his previous efforts with tender songs full of young love, nostalgia and heartache.
Themes like these are found throughout contemporary country, and David settles right in with them on the album opener “Grandpa’s Farm.” Summer dresses, honeysuckle and bare feet all make an appearance as David sings about the city girl who visits her family’s farm when school’s out and it’s too hot to do anything but find a swimming hole. However, what sets David apart is the concept and delivery. Humidity practically steams out of the speakers with swampy slide guitar and B-3 organ over a loose rhythm section while David’s engaging drawl is at once soulful and complex.
David’s ability to study a specific moment and convey all the feelings involved is compelling. The first single off the album, “Let It Rain”(written by David and hit-maker Jonathan Singleton, and featuring Sarah Buxton on backing vocals), is a meditation on regret. Building off the steady syncopation of organ and percussion, David sings, No seven years of good can’t hide the one night I forgot to wear that ring, before begging for the punishment due with a ringing chorus of, Let it rain down on me. On the epic “That’s How I’ll Remember You,” David takes a seemingly opposite approach that reaches a similar result. This time he examines numerous snapshots of a relationship to express a single loving emotion. You were even beautiful telling me goodbye, he sings after short stories of times spent in Brooklyn or walking together on a sandy beach.
Produced by Frank Liddell and Chuck Ainlay, The Sound of a Million Dreams stays true to its title while exploring different musical paths within a song. The harmonies of the electric guitar/bass intro of “Catch You While I Can” or the quick, right-left speaker panning of “Half Mile Hill” display the attention given to the overall sound. No matter where the song takes them, David’s band channels his vision as an integral component of the record. The atmospheric “She Rides Away” features powerful vocals from David, while his band supports strongly. She flies as wild as the wind on the border of Laredo, he sings with conviction before the musicians break free with soaring guitars that roar like 350 horsepower down the open road.
The album’s closing song might also be its best. Bringing all the finest elements of the album together, “Catherine” (featuring Will Hoge on backing vocals) is an emotional outpouring of love for David’s wife. Catherine, I can’t give you anything/ much more than this couple hundred-dollar ring, he sings through bluesy piano and raw, distorted slide guitar.
On The Sound of a Million Dreams, David stakes a claim with his brand of bluesy, country/soul, exploring a different side of southern music with authentic feel and a complex voice.