With the eye of a short-story writer, Abilene-born, Austin-based Nathan Hamilton pens songs sharp with detail and rich in imagery. Like fellow Texas troubadours James McMurtry and Robert Earl Keen, Jr., as well as the California bard Dave Alvin, Hamilton has the ability to transform his literate story songs into rugged slices of Americana. "Bottle in the Bathroom," the sensational second cut, is a riveting, heartbreaking tale of a construction worker trying to deal with his wife's alcoholism. Never succumbing to melodramatics, Hamilton has the man realize that he "can't pretend it's all fine/Can't dress it up and slick it over/And keep right on denying." It's followed by "Shape I'm In," a memorable portrait of an ex-con working at a fireworks stand, where "no one dares ask me what I've done." The aptly entitled All for Love and Wages is filled with vivid blue-collar stories and passionate tales about relationships. In "Get It Right," he essays the aftermath of a couple's argument, expertly detailing it with the man, an ex-smoker, smelling a neighbor's cigarette. The arrangements are just as strong as the words are. Hamilton proves adept whether handling quiet folky numbers like "4 Directions," a growling country-rock tune such as "Dirt in the Wound," or the bluesy "Bed Clothes." The Pancho Villa tale "Fiero's Run" boasts a colorful Tex-Mex flavor, complete with flamenco guitar and trumpet. It's the type of song that Joe Ely would do and Hamilton executes it with great ease. Hamilton's rough-hewn vocals, which at times recall John Doe and Lyle Lovett, fit well with his muscular tunes. With just his second solo album, Hamilton has established himself as one of Texas' rising young singer/songwriters. And in a state like Texas, filled with great singer/songwriters, that is quite an accomplishment.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Berick