Nick Drummond is artful in his new, debut solo album, Follow the Rivulets. It’s not a huge departure from the folky blues of his previous band, The Senate (Rivulets includes new versions of two songs previously released on The Senate’s last album, The End is Over), but it is distinctly Drummond running the show.
He has a lot going for him. Drummond treats his voice like an instrument—a crystal clear instrument he wields with confidence and melds into a mellifluous haze when he harmonizes with himself. His lyrics, while occasionally cheesy, paint a picture of the pacific northwest, with our water, trees, leaves, wind, and tattooed women. When his rhymes risk being too tight (embrace/face, another/brother), he softens their blow with tasteful fluctuations in the melody. His back-up band is ever-interesting and on point, imitating rain with brush strokes to the snare drum, setting a beach party scene with cheerful plucking, and waking the dead with that haunting reverb on the guitar. Drummond is particularly skilled at pacing—he’s fluid between rhythmic minimalism and orchestral crescendo, arranging these highs and lows around emotionally heightened moments in the song’s narrative. This skill struck me particularly in the instrumental, Waiting for the Dawn, where Drummond’s layered voices, sans lyrics, carry you through what feels like dreamscape.
Still, for all its good points, Follow the Rivulets is missing something.
Drummond spoke to me about wanting to confront subjects like heartbreak and anger with optimism, and his goal was for the sound of his songs to reflect that. He’s successful with Whistling Wind, where gritty, aching blues are juxtaposed with crescendos of hopeful melody. The listener is reminded that these conflicting emotions can coexist in a single person’s experience, and compelled by suspense to follow along until the end, to find out how these two conflicting tones resolve themselves. But then, in How Strange, the upbeat guitar plucking swallows the lyrics laden with negative emotions. The optimistic tone and the negativity of the lyrics don’t inform each other, so their juxtaposition comes across like Drummond is trying to hide his worst thoughts behind happy grooves.
Rivulets also feels, at times, a little too Jack Johnson—playing it safe. For instance, Drummond designs the album to end on a high note, which is great, except that the final song, Firefly, is too tidy, neat, arranged, and pretty for a song about letting loose. It’s nice, but it doesn’t pump me up and make me want to “shake my number.” It’s probably better live, when Drummond himself lets loose.
Follow the Rivulets was released April 10th and is available through iTunes. For more information on the album and the artist, visit www.NickDrummond.com.
First published by the West Seattle Herald on 04/30/2016.