Perhaps it was inevitable given the dominating presence of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Mato Nanji, that Indigenous would someday be a vehicle in all but name for the frontman. That day has arrived with the fifth album under the Indigenous moniker, but first to replace Nanji's brother (percussion) and sister (drums) with studio musicians. Even though, Pte, his bassist brother, is still listed in the credits, his contributions are minimal. Additionally only Nanji's photos adorn the booklet, which gives the impression that this is a solo album, and for all intents, it is just that. Regardless, it's a rugged, tough, at times roaring blues-rock disc that finds a strong groove and rides it like a jockey on a thoroughbred. Nanji's guitar and voice are front and center throughout, and the stripped down production by Steve Fishell (the Mavericks, Albert Lee, Willie Nelson) keeps the sound meaty and lean. Eight out of the ten tracks are written or co-written by Nanji with a driving version of Bobby Robinson/Tarheel Slim's "Number Nine Train" and a soulful take on Bob Dylan's "Born in Time" the only covers. Nanji's dusky baritone vocals, a combination of Hootie & the Blowfish's Darius Rucker and Jonny Lang, sink into his quicksilver guitar lines like a father into his favorite overstuffed chair. Much has been made of the guitarist's musical resemblance to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, and this album does nothing to dispel those voices. But, like Robin Trower who seems to be a major influence on the track "Leaving," Nanji takes the approach and twists it into something, if not entirely unique, at least distinctive. There's a frisky funk and R&B bottom to tracks such as "The Way You Walk" and the Robert Cray-ish "Fool Me Again" that grounds the album and provides a foundation for the riff-heavy tracks. Only the lone instrumental "Out of Nowhere" screams Stevie Ray so loudly, even Vaughan fans might be fooled into thinking it's a lost track from the Texas guitar icon. There are certainly similarities to other Indigenous albums on Chasing the Sun, but it also marks a new beginning for guitarist Nanji who, at least on the basis of this sturdy, unpretentious release, can leave the Indigenous label behind and go solo.
Chasing the Sun Review
by Hal Horowitz