Nina Nastasia & Jim White You Follow Me

[FatCat; 2007]

Styles: indie rock, alt-country, singer/songwriter
Others: Neko Case, Hem, The Dirty Three

Less than a year after releasing her striking album On Leaving, Nina Nastasia teams with drummer Jim White for You Follow Me. Unsurprisingly, the project was dreamt up by White while playing shows with Nastasia as a duo. While Nastasia is known for her inclination toward sparse arrangements, whittling the arsenal down to her and White alone makes her earlier efforts seem positively lush in comparison. But that doesn't mean You Follow Me is an arid or dull affair. Instead, You Follow Me's scaled-back approach gives Nastasia and White a chance to show off their collaborative prowess.

Although You Follow Me is not a traditional concept album, the songs revolve around the theme of yearning for a loved one. Nastasia's voice is the lustrous wonder it always has been, and as one of only three instruments (the other two being guitar and drums) employed throughout, it gets the place of prominence it deserves. She can be pensive and haunting ("I've Been Out Walking"), sweet and listless ("Our Discussion"), resolute and angry ("Late Night"), or achieve just about any mood she seeks to emote. Her guitar playing is typically restrained, but in the moments where her full strum breaks loose, as in "Late Night," the result is a stark contrast that reflects the album's occasional moments of well-earned bombast.

Despite the strength of Nastasia's vocals, the finest element of this entire project may well be White's drumming. While he's always been a dominant force on records with The Dirty Three, Nastasia, and others, his name on this particular marquee, Nina Nastasia & Jim White, means that his percussive feats are deservedly spotlit. Steve Albini's recording ethos captures White's kit in its purest form, giving every brush stroke and cymbal crash the chance to be heard equally among the other sound sources. In this setting, White's balance of creativity and precision not only provides each song a proper rhythmic foundation, but also helps forge their very character. On par with all of Nastasia's earlier efforts, You Follow Me has the leg-up in offering the pleasure of unfettered access to these two phenomenal players.

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