The very title Fighter suggests David Nail is defiant, a trait it has in common with its 2014 predecessor I'm a Fire. This 2016 album also opens with a bit of fury, as Nail taps into the calamitous stomp of the Lumineers for the opening "Good at Tonight," but that's about as noisy as the record gets, as much of Fighter mines a sentimental vein. Nail is suited for such emotions. Not a forceful singer but also not a featherweight, his easy touch sounds best on ballads, where he never seems to be trading in cheap emotions. Certainly, Fighter gives him plenty of opportunity to lay back -- it's not just the ballads, although there are many of those, but there are slick midtempo pop tunes that showcase his mellow delivery. At times, Fighter proceeds so softly, it can recall the heyday of sensitive singer/songwriters: "Babies" evokes the gentle touch of James Taylor, while "Old Man's Symphony" plays like a sequel to Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band." Both songs highlight the shifting tides of generations, a topic that underscores how sticky Nail's emotions can get, but fortunately Fighter often explores interpersonal territory, offering songs of heartbreak and devotion. Nail excels at both emotions: his habit of underselling his delivery accentuates the underlying feelings in the songs, turning the record into something quiet and insinuating. Fighter doesn't command attention but if it's given attention, it is seductive, even compelling: a mature, confident record from a singer who sees no reason to grandstand.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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