Nat Baldwin

Music seen at Strange Maine, October 11, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  October 24, 2007

Before this recent October heat wave prolonged our endless foliage season, it was getting to be one of my favorite times of year: hot chocolate at Strange Maine time. As I devised a means of surreptitiously hiding the Starbucks logo (long story...) of my (sadly, delicious) drink, Nat Baldwin — the night’s featured performer — unexpectedly took the floor first. His music was a suiting accompaniment to the beverage, an uplifting soundtrack to the frosts to come.

Baldwin, an upright-bass player, was joined by a three-piece backing band. Road-weary and admittedly hung over, their somewhat haggard condition didn’t hinder the performance, aside from Baldwin’s slightly hoarse vocals and the part where he almost fell over playing his bass. Anyway, the music: on record, Baldwin’s songs are lushly arranged and well-populated with guitar and effects, a more gentle cousin to the often-glorious shrill of his pals in Dirty Projectors; in concert, his music comes off as more straightforward, jazz-inflected singer-songwriter stuff.

Fortunately, it’s still gorgeous. Baldwin’s drummer thrives on syncopated rhythms with the grace of an improvisationalist, and his own technique on the bass is inventive and dynamic. The group’s strengths coalesce on the “Lake Erie,” which opened both the set and Baldwin’s forthcoming album, Most Valuable Player. His vocals were hard to discern over the din of a full band, but his falsetto — best employed on scats that start at a high pitch, then pull back and seem to eat themselves — even at minimum volume, is heartfelt and cathartic, something you yearn to become familiar with. While better suited to a larger, mic-ed venue, the short set was a nice teaser for a newly-local (he lives in Bar Harbor while he’s not touring) artist I’ll be obliged to tell you a lot more about as I start compulsively playing his album during early winter snowstorms. Ready and waiting, nature...

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