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MP3 Nelson Starr - Segue

Nelson Starr''s "Segue" is the beautiful progeny of the best of Modern Rock (i.e.-Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Coldplay) and the Classic Rock canon(especially the Beatles, Dylan, or even U2); sounding as fresh and unformatted as the previous

4 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Modern Rock, POP: Today''s Top 40

Who is Nelson Starr ?

One of the best-known and critically acclaimed musician/composers in the Buffalo area, Nelson Starr brings a totally refined yet thoroughly modern sensibility to his craft. A multi-talented artist, Nelson has the ability to play just about any genre of music from rock to jazz, country to R&B.

Hailing from three generations of professional musicians (all named Nelson!), Nelson Starr stood out early among his peers for his skill as both an instrumentalist (he plays guitar, bass, and keyboards) and singer/songwriter. Forming The Tails in 1993, the band went on to become, arguably, the most critically praised and popularly admired band of the 90''s Buffalo original music scene. In addition, The Tails garnered national press and radio play, raising the eyebrows of many within the music industry.

After honing his craft as a co-producer on four Tails releases, Nelson has been hard at work producing (and often engineering) music for singer/songwriter Alex Lynne, upstarts Floozie and R&B/hip-hop act Perpendicular (with whom he also played and co-wrote music). Nelson has also performed with the soon to be famous alt-rock band Velour and has toured as bassist with the 10,000 Maniacs. Moreover, Nelson''s diverse talents have seen him perform with Western New York''s premier jazz musicians, including live dates with Phil Sims (Tommy Dorsey Orchestra), former Blue Note recording artist, Sam Noto and Bari-sax great Bruce Johnstone (a one time regular at Manhattan''s Legendary Village Gate) among many others. Finally, in the rock idiom, Nelson has played sessions for Grammy winning producers Harvey Jay Goldberg (Rolling Stones) and Jeffrey Lesser (Lou Reed).

Nelson is the recipient of the Best Original Male Vocalist Award (Buffalo Music Awards) 1994, 1995, 1997; the Best Original Keyboardist Award (BMA) 1998; Best Rock Keyboardist Award (BMA) 2000, (Artvoice) 1999; and the Best Male Vocalist Award (Artvoice) 1996, 1999. Nelson''s music also appeared on the Fox television show, "Party of Five," and his co-production, Form Follows Funk (with Perpendicular) is currently licensed to Columbia/Tri-Star Pictures.

Presently, Nelson is performing with Western New York''s most sought after rock band, The Party Squad (Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductees); with renowned composer Steven Reich''s son, Ezra Reich; and most recently, as all-purpose instrumentalist/ vocalist with Buffalo''s "jingle meister", Ken Kaufman. He has also composed the motion picture soundtrack for the independent film noir, "The Falls"(the most talked about film at this years IFP in Manhattan). Collaborations with Ezra Reich and with his brother Eric Starr-including their brand new, critically acclaimed jazz release, "She", featuring Dominic Miller (Sting) and Iain Ballamy (Bill Bruford, McCoy Tyner) and others- have made New York City a second home for Nelson.

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What is Segue?

"Segue" is the new EP from musical phenom Nelson Starr. Smacking of necessity, but fueled by an eclectic
wanderlust, this collection of new material marks a transition in the artistic life of one of Buffalo''s most
beloved progeny (thus, the title). Evolving from a band creature - he''s the former leader of one of Buffalo''s most endowed bands, "the Tails" - to a one-man-band solo artist, Nelson Starr''s segue is best characterized as an ascent to higher artistic ground.

The nature of Starr''s music itself is inclusive. But in embracing this ethos, Starr ultimately makes his brand of eclectic "headphone rock" subservient to very specific musical ends. What is striking is that this diverse content (you can find everything from Radiohead to the Goo Goo Dolls, the Flaming Lips to Sting type influences) seems entirely reconciled with itself in some sort of beastly, genre defying, alliance.

It''s not that no one has ever attempted such a balancing act (remember that obscure, genre defying act...the Beatles?), it''s just that too many acts of the last couple decades have been so thoroughly squeezed by the "lowest-common-denominator" juggernaut of mass marketing and corporate consolidation that they''ve emerged forever homogenous and without colorful idiosyncrasies that
so endear us to them. Apparently, Starr''s music has not gone through this ringer. And because each song is unique, "Segue" doesn''t come off as "cookie cutter" blah.

The first song, "Into Your Heaven," starts off in "Kid A" mode but then unexpectedly explodes into some alt. rock anthem akin to Smashing Pumpkins only with, say, Michael Hutchence singing. The catchy chorus then yields to another round of British styled space rock, a too cool interlude
and finally surrenders back to the anthemic hook, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, into your heaven where we are one."

While the first song is poetic (biblical references et al), the second cut, "She Can''t Hang (So She Must)," embraces more down-to-earth (yes, literally hanging there) imagery to flesh out the archetypal struggle between the sexes. Sounding more power-pop here, this sweet candy gem turns sour as the narrator relents, "she can''t hang, in gallow''s dust, she can''t hang, so she must!." This play on words teases at misogyny, but clearly is only meant metaphorically.

Track three begins with harp induced psychedelia you might hear on "The Soft Bulletin" by The Flaming Lips but quickly and surprisingly shows it''s true colors - red, white, and blue. Behind the polished shell of "Arms of a Woman" hides a good old-fashioned Dylanesque pearl. Starr''s wisdom here, like Dylan''s, is in telling the story without telling a story. Here we see the joy, the misery - and the understanding that springs from these - as a man and his eternal muse are riding the rails and chasing tails in this highly poetic ode to man''s love for a woman - and womanhood in general.

Probably the most divergent track on "Segue" and also one of the best is "Blue Shadow." This stripped down piece features only a few instruments and very unadorned production allowing the Sting-meets-Jeff Buckleylike
vocals to be featured prominently. Nelson Starr''s voice soars but is subtle at the same time evoking a sadness that''s stirring. The tricky lyrics certainly add to the drama of the piece (which revolves around seeing, what appears to be, a lover''s car anywhere and everywhere around town and never getting to really see who''s inside). It''s fun to count the multiple car references - real or imagined - in this tune.

Again, what makes this style trip worth the effort is that each song is coherent and compelling. The EP, as a whole, is strengthened by the variety of material presented here. It works together to provide a total picture of an artist who is multi-faceted and uncommonly talented. The disaster
that this could have been is avoided by three illustrative factors.

First, and most importantly, this guy''s got the chops - no, not the chops of a heavy metal warrior or a be-bop jazzbo but the subtle and uncanny ability to modulate between different musical emotions and traditions without straining his own credibility or the listener''s patience. Without
flash or parlor tricks, Nelson Starr performs the most difficult trick of all - he makes it all seem

The second arrow in his quiver also cuts through what, potentially, can be tough skin. Often music this dense - and, yes, "Segue" is often a thick meaty stew - can drag down the entire production. But here the sharp musical hooks are able to pierce all the way through, set firmly, and thread a needed musical through line. In the best way, this stuff is catchy! And this is what makes the more challenging parts of the meal all the more savory.

Third, there is a compelling story here, broadened by Starr''s total artistic vision and commitment. Whether it''s the three generations of struggling musicians that Starr hails from; or the fact that he sung, played, recorded and produced every bit of this project himself (except for the drums which are brilliantly executed by his brother Eric Starr - he''s another article unto himself) or the poetic lyrics which give an extra layer of complexity to an already heady mix; the whole affair is put together with a thoughtfulness and passion which is palpable. This is music you can sleep on and feel good about the next day - or decade for that matter.

Yes, it''s a good feeling to experience music by a young, new artist who, in a fresh way, challenges our preconceptions about what commercial music can be. Contemporary music doesn''t have to be dumbed down, trivial, or exploitative to be hip - or to sell a million records (just ask Ralph Stanley of "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" fame). Nelson Starr''s "Segue" is just the sort of hip trip worth taking - and you won''t feel taken in the morning.

Jason Wilke - The Independent Music Review

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