If you’re reading this review, chances are you’re aware of Nate Allen. Released a ton of folk-punk albums with wife Tessa as Destroy Nate Allen. DNA was energetic, fun, and although there was always a message, it was generally focused outward (“Jesus, Keep us Safe from the Cops” and “Boobie Bar” come to mind). Good Saint Nathaniel is Nate’s latest project, a solo outing, in which he turns inward to personal reflection and resolution. And the results are surprisingly good.
Stylistically this is indie folk. Closest comparisons I can make are Damien Jurado’s darker stuff (there are no pop songs here), or even some of Mark Kozelek’s stuff (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon), but with more uplifting content.
Uplifting might be an ironic word choice here, given the subject matter. A lot of the marketing campaigns around Hide No Truth have highlighted how the themes of the album deal with Nate’s struggle to come to terms with spiritual abuse he’s undergone in his evangelical Christian background. This is heavy stuff for sure, and yet it’s incredibly compelling. I’m on my fourth listen now and I’m still not quite ready to take it all in—nor am I ready to stop listening. While I enjoyed the hyper-energetic Destroy Nate Allen material, it’s Hide No Truth that sucks me back in for repeated listening.
Lyrically, Nate here is in top form, somehow managing to simultaneously communicate the pain of one’s past and yet move the listener forward to something hopeful:
“So over this recovery, how could there still be more
You’re dancing with your Jesus, I am crying on the floor
Singing songs of celebration, well I’m feeling ignored
My anxiety is packing up, I’m headed for the door
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways
Heaven calls us higher but earth begs us to stay
Heaven calls us higher but earth begs us to stay”
Whereas some who have experienced the sort of trauma hinted at here (we aren’t fully given the story, only clues here and there) might throw out the Christian baby with the evangelical bathwater, Nate’s task is different: personal healing and resolution with a view to being a guide—a prophetic scarpa for the rest of us. Allen somehow manages to find the blessing of pains lived through. Not content to leave the listener stranded on the isle of despair, he helps us along the rest of the journey:
“I got a mountain bike when I was 15, a faithful friend with nearly 20 gears
I rode it once in my new city, they stole off the back of my stairs
Call it disruptive I’d say I’m lucky I’d ruptured my internal affairs
My heart was broken, I needed a new one, new one, new one, new one
I’ll be in the basement making repairs
So, Lord, I give You everything inside of me
the brokenness that I’ve been trying to hide
Like the parts inside me of that I lost when I was running so blind”
(From “Making Repairs”)
Listening to this record makes one want to slow down a bit, be more intentional, love a little more, be kind to those around you. And somewhat weirdly, it makes you know Nate a little more, and want to know him as a person. Perhaps that’s part of the story too. Get to know those around you, find out what they’re going through, rather than just seeing them as a number, or even as a “soul.” As people. Human people loved by God, hiding no truth.