Beaver Nelson, with Adam Carroll and Scrappy Jud Newcomb

Sunday, December 29

Beaver Nelson's new CD, Legends of the Super Heroes, is his most diverse, intriguing batch of songs to date, reaffirming the notion that he's a cut above your average rock-oriented Texas singer-songwriter. Nelson eagerly embraces the limitations of his thin voice and forges ahead with complex melodies that some Texas artists (Robert Earl Keen comes to mind) who get by on the strength of lyrics alone could never attempt. In the opening cut, "Clean It Up," the strain in Nelson's voice is noticeable as he slides up the scale, but propelled by the jangly guitar and mandolin, it finds a niche in the layered composition. Like New Zealand popster Neil Finn, who could certainly come back as an Austin songwriter in his next life, Nelson works with a multicolored palette to pump up a song's staying power. Peaking in the album's second half, Nelson arranges "Sleep (No Rest)" with just voice and guitar, working his lyrical imagery in a modern morality tale that evokes a simple na#&239;veté. From there, Nelson unveils a couple of songs that Finn might want to borrow for the next Crowded House album. "It Seems So Simple" (with a soulful bass line as counterpoint) and "Mile Markers" (in which a cello and vocalist Carolyn Herring provide the contrast to Nelson's raggedy vocal) are equally inspiring. If wearing his emotions on his sleeve and cutting a new CD before the ink dries on the liner notes from the last one is Nelson's way of coping with life's foibles, then perhaps he's only one more album away from getting the bad guy, the beautiful blond and the keys to the city in one fell swoop. For now, Nelson will have to settle for playing this League of Justice-style gig with his sidekick guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb (long a rockin' Robin to Nelson's songwriting Batman) and fellow young songwriting hero Adam Carroll.

 
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