Make ‘Em Famous: Nathan Kalish

Yeah, fame doesn’t really exist anymore. Especially in the music industry, which probably doesn’t exist as a giant whole anymore either. What separates the pros from the amateurs, the successful and the unsuccessful, is essentially the same thing that separates hard workers from lazy  pieces of shit. Regardless, certain singer-songwriters who started with cult followings have risen to a level where most music fans have at least heard of them. Conor Oberst, Ingrid Michaelson, Ryan Adams, and Jason Isbell come to mind, though I’m sure you’ve already thought of others. For shit’s sake, I think it’s about time that Nathan Kalish was added to this list.

I’ve known Nathan for about a decade, as a fellow songwriter, a friend, and as someone who legitimately loves his music. Add to it the fact that he’s been a dead-shot serous musician since he was a kid. Based on my many sober and completely shit-faced conversations with him, I reckon he has never had any other career goal than to be a musician.

His early work with The Wildfire was Americana set ablaze by Replacements-style punk, graced with songwriting chops clearly sharpened by greats such as Neil Young, Sprinsteen, John Prine, and others. After The Wildfire broke up and a couple self-released solo albums, Nathan reinvented his act under the monike Nathan Kalish & the Lastcallers. The punk flair and DIY can-do existed more as an ethos at this point, while the music itself veered into flat-out honky-tonk country. And while few sounds will ever feel as good to me as the early primal rumbles of The Wildfire, the two Lastcaller albums found Nathan fashioning a sound and  image that are truly his own, wisely rooted in Americana’s rich soil. So it’s no surprise that his latest release I Want to Believe is his best album yet.

With a non-Confederate country flag in one hand and a freak flag in the other, Kalish covers everything from the Kingdom of Heaven to the hellish Kingdom of post-Trump America, and alien-helmed flying saucers maneuvering space in between. With standouts like the Tom Pettyish “Winter Phase Revisited” and the catchy, flat-out-bizarre “Roswell,” to the youthful pessimism of “Bullies Win Again,” this effort finds Nathan doing what he was born to do: write damn good songs and put them to work.

Buy his records. Go see him play. Request his music. Seriously, make him famous.


Favorite Track: “Do You Ever.” The song starts off sounding like a Waylon Jennings throwback, and careens into as infectious of a chorus as you are about to hear, with strange vibes and traditional rhythms continuing the weirdo balance of earth and space that holds this album together.

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