For a decade now, Beaver Nelson has been the promising kid on the Texas singer-songwriter scene. And maybe it's that potential that's created his toughest hurdle. He's certainly delivered enough lyrical intelligence, emotional content and melodic appeal to assure us that the promise is still there. But he has yet to truly catch fire.
Undisturbed plays like more of the same: another collection of rootsy pop-rock songs that's damned good but never quite makes the leap to the sort of greatness that sends a shiver down the spine. It's the next logical step in Nelson's artistic emergence, marked by strong songs, smart arrangements and a natural grace with words that's easy to appreciate. His voice has just enough personality to give everything here some genuine character, yet over the course of an album its limitations wear a wee bit. When he launches into a potential anthem like "When We Were Friends," one hears intimations of something that might soar, yet merely levitates.
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Perhaps it's quibbling, since Nelson has always been head and shoulders above so many of his contemporaries in the Texas songwriting tradition. But his work just never seems to evoke more than a hearty "Yeah." I'll keep listening for the moment when the response is "Wow."