Drop a needle on your new copy of Promises to Deliver, the worth-the-wait first album by Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, and you’ll know why we love this guy before the end of the first verse. The last time they performed here on the Hymie’s stage Nato (as his alter-ego, the bespeckled “professor”) offered an impassioned lecture on places that have soul, including our record shop in a list that also named our favorite venue in town, the Turf Club. If you can’t get enough of Nato and his reliable Blue Diamond Band you’ll be able to see them perform on both stages tomorrow, along with some awesome supporting acts as part of an epic celebration for the release of their first LP.
The awesome story by Zack McCormick for the City Pages‘ blog Gimme Noise (here) captures him insisting he’s not a “Springsteen-clone” but you can’t seriously sing a song like “Julie (Hang Out a Little Longer)” and express surprise when people note similarities. Besides, a couple track – especially “Econoline” – are more Bon Jovi than Boss.
Seriously, there is a lot of range to Promises to Deliver that was only hinted at in the band’s previous release, a 45rpm single that pretty much solidified Coles as the Cities’ purest purveyor of genuine rock and roll. “Play Loud” has already made a few appearances here on the Hymie’s blog (like this one) and taken up residency in our jukebox. Its an anthemic paean to the pleasures of rock and roll, one of the most joyful singles to come out of Minneapolis in decades, and a sure cure for the blues. And its a song I don’t think Springsteen could write anymore.
Promises to Deliver maintains the furious intensity of that 45 for more than thirty-five minutes in a stunning race that captures Coles’ wanderlust. Hardly a “Springsteen clone” indeed, this album draws from the country rock of the bible belt as tactfully as it does the hard rock of the rust belt. From one moment to the next it will remind you of every rock and roll album you’ve loved since you first heard Jailbreak — you’ll find yourself variously wishing you were cruising east on I-80 or west down the Will Rogers Highway. Either way, you’ll wish you were heading somewhere.
In the Gimme Noise story Coles talked about putting more work into his lyrics, throwing away the throw-away lines, and the result is nine narratives as concise as the arrangements that frame them – simple descriptions and pedestrian, working class settings (a record store, a neighborhood bar, an Econoline) set the stage for real emotions. Excitement, anxiety (“all day long I’m climbing the walls”), loneliness, restlessness.
Lead guitarist Sam Beer’s work is integral to that drive that makes Promises to Deliver such a fun listen. Without walking over the dynamic bandleaders’ delivery, Beer turns in an exceptional tour de force performance. His solos and short fills match Coles’ energy bar for bar – sometimes heavy and bluesy, like borrowed from Joe Perry’s solo at the beginning of “Mama Kin,” other times more earnest honky tonk than anything on a Steve Earle record (check out what he brings to “Hard to Hear the Truth”). Beer frequently recalls those classic metal records we never really outgrow, as in the warm lead that launches “You Can Count on me Tonight” and throughout the album’s opening track, “See Some Lights.” There’s even a solo in the middle of “Econoline” that could have come off the last Nightosaur disc! His playing in each track fits the epic feeling of the album perfectly, so as far as his role is concerned this album could have been called Promise Delivered.
That’s not to say fellow Blue Diamond boys Kyle Sando and Mike Cranberry don’t deliver. Keeping up with Nato Coles must be an extraordinary challenge – there’s moments Promises to Deliver where it feels like the only thing that keeps the band from exploding to a frantic 200 bpm is Cranberry. Restraining a band with deep punk rock roots in a track like “Hard to Hear the Truth” is no small feat. Here and there bassist Sando seems like the most driven to play faster, and some of his playing (at, say, the end of “See Some Lights” or throughout the aging lamentation “Late Night Heroes”) shows shades of punk rock in an otherwise very much “classic rock” album.
Classic rock. Yep, stuff our dads listened to when we were growing up. Stuff you hear in the background of TV commercials today. Stuff those of us who worked in construction are goddamn sick of thanks to KQRS. We’re pretty sure that if the people at that station didn’t have their heads so far up their corporate Cumulus Media butts, they’d be spinning this record (if they even spin records at all anymore). Here it is the longest day of the year, the midpoint of 2013, and we’ve got a leading contender for our favorite local album of the year.
Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band will perform songs from Promises to Deliver and more here at Hymie’s tomorrow at 4pm. Lutheran Heat will play an opening set. That show is free and all ages.
They will also perform at the Turf Club with Frozen Teens and the Right Here with doors at 9pm. That show is 21+ with a $5 cover.
Addendum: Nato’s response was that he “had never, willingly, listened to a Bon Jovi record.” And that he, not Sam Beer, played the lead on “Econoline.” “Sam can play all kinds of things. He’s awesome, but anytime it sounds like Neil Young, that’s me.”