Jeremy Nail – Live Oak
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Jeremy Nail before this album and it’s predecessor landed at my door. However, since then, I’ve been playing it a lot. It’s a calm meditative album, born out of a time of great personal distress and hurt. While hugely impressive in its own right, Nail’s backstory is necessary to give context to this autobiographical work, that will have resonance for many.
In 2013 Nail was diagnosed with Sarcoma, a rare tissue cancer, which ultimately resulted in the amputation of his leg. Thankfully he survived and began writing songs about the ordeal. The result was ‘My Mountain’, an album produced by Alejandro Escovedo, himself a survivor of a life-threatening Hepatitis C scare. The record hosted a roster of names from the upper echelon of Americana, including The Mastersons and Bobby Daniel. This was an album of songs from the heart about deeply personal struggles and the will to survive.
My mountain, the story of our age. There’s always something standing in our way. Gonna climb my mountain. It’s about time. Just sit back and watch me walk this crooked line.
If ‘My mountain’ showcased songs of defiance, survival and striving to maintain the human spirit, ‘Live Oak’ advances Nail’s narrative and speaks of growth, and a desire to put the past behind and move on, with searingly honest and raw language.
This reflection staring back at me, standing on my own two feet. One is made of flesh and bone. The devil danced with the other one
‘Til Kingdom Come’
Co-produced by Nail and his drummer, Pat Manske, they keep very much to the template set by Escovedo on the last album. The music is stripped down, almost drawing the listener closer to the speaker to hear quiet Jeremy’s southern drawl. Often drawing on nature for imagery, there is an eloquence and a poetic sensibility at play here. Indeed, one feels the lyrics could stand alone in their own right, yet they are adorned with a light acoustic backing, with a ringing guitar emphasising the idea of growth and re-birth.
The struggle is painful and real, but always there is a resilience and belief in the future:
Not a word to say at the break of day for the way things have gone. Holding close to the budding rose. Light and water to make it grow. Gathered on the branches, the birds build their nest. Dead leaves falling underneath as I come back new again. Strong as a live oak.
At times painful and so personal, one feels you are listening to an internal personal monologue. Ultimately, this is a life-affirming album that the listener will return to time and again. It is a quietly powerful record that hopefully sets the young Texan on an upward spiral of much-deserved reward and recognition.
Like the title, ‘Live Oak’, this is an album that grows and grows.