David Nail

The Sound of a Million Dreams

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Considering the chart life of "Let It Rain," the pre-release single from David Nail's sophomore album The Sound of a Million Dreams, it's curious to note that it's not the best song here. Co-produced by Chuck Ainlay and Frank Liddell, the album's sound feels more "live"; it's easy to hear these songs as concert entries. Nail wrote or co-wrote three tracks here, including the single, but it's the other cuts that have more impact -- at least musically. Lyrically almost everything is well inside the strict confines of contemporary country subject matter -- as evidenced by the opener, "Grandpa's Farm." To be fair, despite its truly awful words, the track feels more like a tough, funky, bluesy Southern R&B groover. If Delaney & Bonnie were recording in the 21st century (and trying to make money), they might sound something like this. The backing vocals by Joanna Cotton and Kim Parent make the refrains soar, and gritty piano by Chuck Leavell, Doug Pettibone's knotty guitar, and Glenn Worf's in-the-cut bassline don't hurt either. It does contain the requisite CC banjo, but the song rocks more than it rolls, and the emotional expressiveness in Nail's voice sells it. Keith Urban and Vernon Rust's "Desiree" grabs just enough from '70s-era Fleetwood Mac to contrast with Nail's vocal. Again, it's the backing vocals -- Sarah Buxton and Chris Rodriguez -- that carry the song's hooky chorus into the stratosphere. The big surprise is "She Rides Away," which begins as a shimmering ballad but erupts into a full-blown country-rock paean to lost love. Nail's firmly committed to its lyric and the band just brings it all. Nail co-wrote "Let It Rain," and it works because Leavell's brilliant B-3 and Wurlitzer work and Buxton's backing vocal fill out the song's rather sketchy, de rigueur melody. When you add Nail's voice, it gets depth and soul. The set closes strong, too. "That's How I'll Remember You" begins slowly, but picks up steam with canny production and has to be the first country song to mention Brooklyn, New York nostalgically. The title track -- and second single -- directly channels Bruce Springsteen musically, and goes so far as to admit it by name-checking the Boss' "Born to Run" and Bob Seger's "Main Street." He also name-checks Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" to come full circle. Nail's "Catherine," the closer, is the best evidence of his songwriting prowess and showcases his voice unrestricted. It's one of the best things here. There is no sophomore jinx on The Sound of a Million Dreams. Musically and sonically it's well above average, even if there are three generic cuts in the middle that keep it from rising to the next level.

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