Nathan Graham “Saint of Second Chances”

Pravda Records, 2023

Chicago-based artist moves up front and hits it out of the park the first time up.

It’s hard to determine if Nathan Graham is a guitar player who sings or a singer who plays guitar. He does both well, and yet he also writes great songs, so maybe he is a singer, songwriter, guitarist?  Maybe it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. He just makes great music.

Graham has been a figure on the Chicago music scene for a while.  While ‘Saint of Second Chances’ is his first release, it is the work of a veteran.  He spent a decade backing blues singers in legendary venues such as Buddy Guy’s Legends, where the who’s who have performed including Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, Otis Rush, Albert Collins, B.B. King, , Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Dr. John. Graham has also been at Kingston Mines, the oldest continuously operating blues club in Chicago.

After years of making a living as a “guitar for hire”, Graham transitioned into writing his own songs.  This required more than guitar virtuosity; he also had to write lyrics that reach people. To do that he went deep into himself to touch chords that echo with all of us.  As he says. “I want the audience to go on that journey with me. To sometimes be sad, and sometimes be joyful. I want us all to be walking through that journey with each other.” On that journey, Graham takes us through most of the big waystations of life – heartbreak, loss, insecurity, love. Graham also had to sing.  He credits advice from his mother: ““All you have to do is open up your mouth, and project”, for helping overcome his reluctance to pour his heart out. But he did and the results are a joy. Graham has a strong, clear voice and powerfully delivers his lyrics with emotion.

The first song, ‘Pride’ is about the loneliness that we create for ourselves: “I won’t last another night on my own/ My pride gets the best of me when I’m alone”. Another, ‘Somebody Else’, is about the risks one takes: “Well, I’ll be your fool/ I can’t help myself/ Rather take the chance of you breaking my heart than be with somebody else.” Then there is ‘Right One’ a straight-up love song.  As Graham says, “I wrote this song about finding the right person and knowing the feeling of when it’s right, it’s perfect. A love you are willing to be a better person for.” Each song on ‘Saint of Second Chances’ tells a very human story of loss, hope, anxiety, fear or love, and various combinations.

Behind, underneath and all around the lyrics is great music.  “Saint of Second Chances” is a wonderful mix of guitar, classic keyboards, solid drums and gospel-like backup vocals. This music sounds familiar because it echoes the best of blues, country and soul, even as it is entirely original.  It’s simple, with the simplicity that comes from confidence. These are musicians who can take things back to the basics and do it note perfect. This is solid, uplifting, moving music that keeps you coming back.

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9/10
9/10

About Michael Macy 49 Articles
Grew up in the American Midwest and bounced around a bit until settling in London. Wherever I've been, whatever I have done, has been to sound of Americana. It is a real privilege to be part of this site, discover new music and write about it.
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