Thursday, November 14, 2019

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band - Flyover

Flyover, the second studio album from Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band, has been a great many years in the making. The period between this album and its predecessor Promises To Deliver now approaches six and a half years. For context, consider that the year Promises To Deliver came out, the Houston Astros were a 51-win team! But if this is what we get after all of this time, then every last bit of the wait was worth it. Out tomorrow on Don Giovanni Records, Flyover is exactly the album you would expect from one of THE great American rock and roll bands of present times. It does not redefine what Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band are all about. The Minneapolis outfit continues to be the quintessential garage/punk influenced bar band - playing traditional rock and roll with grit, soul, and an impressive flair for storytelling. And from the first spin, this album absolutely knocked me out. Coming in at ten tracks, Flyover is honest, straight-forward rock and roll done so well that you wouldn't want it to be anything else.

While I have heaped plenty of accolades upon Nato Coles as a singer, songwriter, and general man of the people, I have not said nearly enough about the Blue Diamond Band. The group's formidable chops are the result of years of continuous touring and an undying commitment to rocking the roof off of every dive bar, pub, club, social hall, amphitheater, shopping complex, picnic pavilion, water park, coffee shop, bowling alley, gambling den, and basement venue that will have them. The band as constituted on this 2017 recording is Sam Beer on lead guitar, Mike Cranberry on drums, Luke Lecheler on keyboards, and Bill Rohla on bass. Beer is an absolute force on this release. I don't know whether to describe him as Nato's own Mike Campbell or as a combination of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. Either way, he's one of my favorite guitarists working today (It figures that I'd be huge fan of a guy named "Beer"). From the opening strains of "Under The Flyover", the Blue Diamond Band sounds plain hot on this release. Cranberry and Rohla mightily drive the rhythm while Lecheler works the keyboards with exemplary old school R & B flair. And while his band fires on all cylinders, Nato delivers a stunning set of rockers, ballads, and anthems.

Given the years elapsed between albums, Flyover might be considered Nato's own Darkness on the Edge of Town (although it's probably closer to The River!). He had to be dying to get some of these songs on record. Like any Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band record, Flyover transports you to a world where the bright lights and hot sounds of transcendent rock and roll spring weary souls to life. Propelled by a big hook chorus and Beer's guitar heroics, "Under The Flyover" is absolutely the huge opening statement this album required. This is the sort of magic we expect from the Blue Diamond Band, and Nato's lyrics vividly complete the picture:

It's a hub of glorious hell in a west Wisconsin town/
I won’t stop coming around/
The last time we came through we raged until the dawn/
Count the bottles and bodies on the lawn… allright!

"Under the Flyover" is one of several standout rockers on this album. While slightly slower in tempo, "L.P.'s Yard" is even more powerful and emotion-packed (in Nato's own words, the song possesses a nostalgia "usually reserved for songs about great victories against the odds in battle"). "Standing On the Corner Alone" (previously heard on 2016's Live At Grumpy's) and "Michelle of the City" are vintage BDB sing-along anthems. "The Roadrunner" is a high energy barroom rocker replete with a moral ("Don't you waste no time/You know tomorrow's thine"). "Demolition Man" is completely over the top swagger-rock with lyrics to match ("I'm your real live, bonafide, nationwide, rippin' tide, living eyed, triple-wide, chicken-fried, double A-side"). If it's rock you crave, it's rock you shall receive! But Nato and the Blue Diamond Boys have reached the point where their ballads and quietly reflective numbers just might outshine their rockers. "Phoenix, Arizona (1989)" offers the indelible lyric "If this is what I wanted, why do I feel so haunted?" and leaves the Blue Diamond Band with at least one song in its back pocket should it ever find itself performing at Bob's Country Bunker. "Milo and the Bars" finds Nato excelling as a storyteller and expert chronicler of the human condition. In my book, it's the finest songwriting of his life. The roots/folk/Americana ballad "Disposable Camera" finally delivers Nato his "Here Comes A Regular" moment. While "epic" may be a term overused by music reviewers, I cannot think of a more appropriate way to describe closing number "The Avenue of the Saints". 

Flyover demonstrates why I'm such a fan of Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band. It's an album full of memorable characters, compelling stories, and eternal truths - all presented in the context of great American rock and roll. This is an album that could be enjoyed equally by a Fest attendee and your (admittedly hip) grandfather. It's full of songs that remind us to savor the remarkable moments in our lives and take the time to get to know the people we encounter in this world. I know I was a little surprised that "Dangerous" and "Midnight In Memphis" from the split with State Drugs were essentially leftovers from this album's recording sessions. But now having heard Flyover, I get it. These ten songs belong together, and I wouldn't change a thing. Compact disc release coming next month on Rum Bar Records!


1 comment:

Lindy City said...

So well written. This band and album are special and to be appreciated dearly.