Daniel Nestlerode – Windrush: Album Review

Daniel Nestlerode combines traditional and original numbers on his new album, Windrush.

Release Date: 28th August 2020

Label: Clunk and Rattle Records

Formats: Digital / CD

First, an introduction.  Daniel Nestlerode is a singer-songwriter, originally from Pennsylvania, who has spent time in California and Cambridge, England and who now lives with his family in Northern France.  His life experiences are strongly reflected in the songs he writes and he uses his virtuoso skill on mandolin and mandola to bring his songs to life. 

He names his key musical influences as Hugues Aufray, Jean-Jacques Goldman, John Hiatt, Tim O’Brien and Fairport Convention and the ghosts of each of these can be heard to pervade the music.  Windrush is his third album and follows 2013’s More Than A Little Guitar and 2017’s Almost Home, both of which garnered deserved praise in the folk/roots music press and brought Daniel to the attention of several of the folk scene’s movers and shakers.

Windrush is a most enjoyable collection that unites a couple of traditional songs and tunes and a cover of an old favourite together with a selection of Daniel’s observational songs to deliver an album that is alternately tuneful, entertaining, sentimental and thought-provoking.  The songs and tunes are simply, yet effectively, arranged, with a strong focus given to Daniel’s mandolin playing and to his strong, English-sounding vocals. 

There’s a home-made feel to many of the tracks and the songs are delivered with an urgency that suggests that he couldn’t wait to commit the songs to tape.  I was particularly interested in the perspective of a US citizen, married to a French national who, having lived in England has observed how we have managed to tie ourselves in knots over recent years with Brexit and the Windrush scandal and I detected and empathised with his regret over these stumblings.

The album is bookended by two versions of the gentle White Flower Waltz, a tune composed by Daniel in the traditional idiom which both sets the feel for the album and effectively wraps up proceedings at the end.  Daniel’s own songs include Unexpectedly, a jaunty country song that recollects his first meeting with his wife; After All, a slow rocker which describes the relief he felt when he settled in France and realised after all his wanderings, that he finally felt that he’d arrived at home and Tout Ce Qui Fait Toi, a song about the birth of his first child with the verses sung in English and the choruses in French to reflect the child’s multi-nationality; the title translates as “Everything that makes you,” and the lyrics reflect this touching sentiment.

Alongside Daniel’s own compositions, the album also includes a liberal sprinkling of traditional numbers, drawn from sources far and wide including American Civil War ballad, The Vacant Chair, an excellent version of the popular Scottish song of farewell, The Parting Glass and the Appalachian dance tune, Blackberry Blossom, on which Daniel manages to inject a Breton feel into the mix.  All are played and sung with great enthusiasm and respect.

For me, though, the real highlights of this excellent collection are three more of Daniel’s compositions.  Living The Dream is a stomping song with mandolin leading the charge over a solid bass drum beat and lyrics that describe how Brexit made Daniel and family feel unwelcome in the UK and gave them, along with many others, a reason to relocate to France.  Windrush, the title track, is an instrumental number that is described as a “Paean to the fortitude of the Windrush generation” and Being A Boy, which for me is the strongest track on the album, captures perfectly the sentiments and experiences that anyone who has had the pleasure of watching a child grow will find familiar.  The wistful chorus that bemoans how children grow up too fast, brings to mind a happier, more optimistic take on John Sebastian’s Younger Generation.

Windrush was co-produced by Daniel and studio owner/engineer/musician Chris Pepper, who also added supplementary keyboards drums and bass.  The result is an entertaining set that will appeal to lovers of reflective, intelligent songs and to traditional folkies alike. 

Listen to Windrush here:

Daniel Nestlerode online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Soundcloud

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