I must confess, this album is the one I was most looking forward to in 2016. David Nail’s three albums to date have been utterly faultless; why he isn’t up there with the big stars of the country world is beyond me. David’s last album ‘I’m A Fire’ was an extremely difficult one to beat and, in all honesty, I began listening to the new album ‘Fighter’ not expecting anything of that quality. How wrong I was.
“I truly believe this album, from top to bottom, is the first time I have been able to tell my story in real-time of where I am right now as an artist, a husband and a father. I wrote more songs for this album than I have for any of my other three so it’s already more personal. Fighter speaks to my journey, my life and now to where I am personally and professionally.” This couldn’t be more accurate. Aside from the first three tracks, the album exposes the softer, more reflective side to David’s music, clearly influenced by the recent arrival of his twins.
But let’s start from the beginning with ‘Good At Tonight’, which features Brothers Osborne who co-wrote the track with Troy Verges and Barry Dean. Already a concert favourite for David with its pounding back beat, and not too dissimilar to some of the material from the Brothers Osborne album ‘Pawn Shop’. This is followed by the single ‘Night’s On Fire’ which requires no introduction. A real country anthem which is finally starting to receive the recognition it deserves on the charts. It’s about time country radio!!
‘Ease Your Pain’ was written by Chris Stapleton, Lee Thomas Miller and Jesse Frasure, and it’s surely a future single release. Not necessarily one of the stand-outs on the album by any means, but it’s got an extremely catchy chorus which is the main ingredient for a radio hit, and it certainly has mainstream appeal. I don’t believe ‘Fighter’ is a particularly radio-friendly album, and I actually mean that as a compliment! There’s so much depth on offer and it’s got such a personal touch, particularly further into the album. Whether that will be embraced by country radio is another question.
The highlight of the album is David’s duet with Lori McKenna on ‘Home’, which they both co-wrote with Barry Dean. This has the same impact on me as ‘Brand New Day’ from the ‘I’m A Fire’ record; incredibly atmospheric with truly stunning harmonies. Not to mention the lyrical beauty of the track which hits you like a tonne of bricks. “It won’t fade away, it’ll watch you leave, stay sittin’ there waitin’ in the fields and the sky and the stones. In your blood and your bones…home”.
Lady Antebellum fans might be familiar with ‘Lie With Me’, which was on their most recent album ‘747’. Initially you’re tricked into thinking it’s a totally different tune; the instrumentation is completely different to the Lady A version and it’s been given that certain David Nail edge! As he proved with his recent ‘Uncovered’ EP, he’s more than capable of transforming a song into his own.
Other stand-outs include the beautiful ‘I Won’t Let You Go’, featuring country legend Vince Gill who contributes backing vocals and a killer electric guitar which is just classic Vince. Soulful country at its very best, combining two of the most accomplished vocalists in the business. The production is so slick, even featuring trumpets in the backing which is a rarity for a David Nail song but it fits seamlessly.
The album then becomes very personal. The title track ‘Fighter’ was written for his wife Catherine and illustrates the struggles they’ve experienced together and how they keep pushing through it. “Don’t think that I don’t see the way you struggle, watching me struggle. Don’t think that I don’t feel you turn away, every time I turn away. Please believe that I believe, when I’m praying that you’re right beside me praying for the same thing”. This leads into ‘Babies’, a sign of the end to all the struggles and an outpouring of love for the twins. Clearly a point in David’s life where he can stand back and reflect on where he is, and it’s provided the material for an incredible track.
I could go on and on here so I’ll wrap this up! As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t an album full of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ radio hits, it’s a carefully crafted, heartfelt collection of stunning tracks that we’ll still be playing in years to come. The line in the final track sums it up – “I can hold a guitar but I’ll never play the lead. The only way I’m gonna entertain is in these words I sing. I could be famous but I’ll never wish to be, I just long to be a note in the old man’s symphony”.
Quite frankly, if ‘Fighter’ is ignored by the likes of the CMA and ACM Awards in their next ‘Album of the Year’ nominations (as it inevitably will be) it’s a travesty. The man can do no wrong.