After releasing three albums with little more than a very occasional pedal steel guitar or fiddle dressing up his rudimentary acoustic guitar accompaniment, Nicholas Altobelli has stepped up his game on album number four; Without a Home was produced by Salim Nourallah, best known for his work with Rhett Miller, and thanks to the ringing electric guitars, subtle but implacable drumming, and occasional harmony vocals, it becomes clear that Altobelli has actually been writing melodies, and the simple but buoyant accompaniment makes this a considerably more engaging listen than anything he's offered us before. Of course, give the lyrics a careful listen and Without a Home doesn't sound an awful lot cheerier than Altobelli's previous work; these songs were written as Altobelli was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder, and the vocals sometimes seem to hover just below the surface as if the songwriter would just as soon we not know how miserable he really is. Dallas-based Altobelli was born in Southern California, and life in the Golden State provides a backdrop for many of the songs on Without a Home; the bitterness of "L.A. Rain" (which, of course, is toxic), "This City" (which didn't feel like home), and "I Don't Think Tonight Is Going to Be a Good Night" (self-explanatory) suggest he isn't exactly sorry to be living elsewhere, though the echoes of vintage L.A. soft rock audible in Nourallah's add an amusing twist to Altobelli's dour ruminations on California life. While the mumbly introspection of Altobelli's songs (and his vocal delivery) get to be a bit much after 38 minutes, Nourallah's studio craft and the strength of Joe Reyes' guitar and John Dufilho's drumming show Altobelli's material to far greater advantage than on his earlier albums, and Without a Home suggests he may be finding better ways to tell his stories and make them compelling to others.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming