Throughout turbulent portions history, people have often looked towards musicians to provide a voice of hope in times of darkness, to shine a light on the most conflicting of issues, and to rally the masses behind a common cause. L.A. based singer-songwriter Nate Newburn is that kind of artist – he uses music to inspire, to motivate, to chastise the establishment. His album Lazarburn is a polyrhythmic exploration through both numerous societal challenges and the innate goodness he believes to be at the heart of the human spirit.
Born in L.A. but spending a portion of his youth in Cape Town, South Africa, Newburn draws on his worldly experiences in his music. With Newburn on acoustic guitar and vocals, the album also features Danny Frankel (Lou Reed, Fiona Apple) on percussion, Janie Cowan (Blato Zato) on bass, Gar Robertson on Ebow/shaft guitar, Tony Patler (Dave Mason, Chaka Khan, The Temptations) on B3 organ, and Robbi Rob (3rd Ear Experience, Three Fish, Tribe after tribe) on both electric guitar and production. The resulting album is comprised of powerful, hard-hitting music that is acoustic at its base and impassioned at its heart.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
The album wastes no time getting straight into the issues plaguing society. Starting with Did You Hear, Newburn is all acid and vitriol with his criticisms of Monsanto. The intricate acoustic guitar riffs behind the fiery lyrics make for a compelling juxtaposition, the music perhaps a bit mild in execution in comparison to the lyrics – but in a good way, as the lyrics are indeed a high point throughout this record, and this allows them to be appreciated in their full glory.
Groundswell has a bit more of a rock feel, with the excellent addition of the B3 organ coming through beautifully amidst a full drum kit and electric guitar. Here, Newburn takes on our suffering environment, with his rallying cry served up so poetically in his lyrics – a style that, even so early on in his record – feels signature. In the third verse he proclaims:
“We are a cowbell
Banging out the boasts of deniers
“Our house is on fire!”
We are a groundswell
Led by the youth
Informed by the science
Defining the design of our lives
Striking for justice, and human rights”
This is followed by the invigorating battle cry that is Can’t Be Swayed (No More) (Check out our deep dive into this track here).
Another high point on this record is Just The Other Day, a bass-forward, percussive track that touches on human strength in both a positive and negative light. It tells the story of a neurodivergent girl standing up for herself alongside images of violence being used on protestors. Newburn has mentioned that African rhythms often find their way into his music, and they’re certainly on display in this track, most prominently in the impressive drum solo occurring around the halfway mark. This, combined with the mirroring of the main melody in the bass line of this song makes it one of the album’s catchiest.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
Dreams of My Beaded Pondo Hat is a great closer for this album, ending things on a positive note. In a break with much of the rest of the record, this track instead focuses on the small moments and little things that bring joy and magic into Newburn’s day-to-day, particularly focusing on his time spent in South Africa. Featuring culturally specific activities like dancing around a cow skin drum, drinking umqombothi, and eating mielie pap, the lyrics paint a vivid picture of Newburn’s experiences, giving a candid look into what his life looked like while he resided there. The ambling, lighthearted rhythm seems perfectly suited to the stories being told.
For those looking for music that will light a fire beneath them, music that will challenge their beliefs and set the wheels of protest in motion – Lazarburn is for you. This is a collection of well-composed songs, flavored with experiences from Newburn’s time abroad, tied together by zealous lyrics that would motivate even the most politically indifferent. Nate Newburn has something exception going on here, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to get onboard with his movement and listen to this powerful work of art.
BELOW: Listen to Lazarburn and connect with his website and social media platforms. Please support Nate Newburn by visiting him online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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