Nathan Salsburg is a musician that plays for honor. Instead of toying with expectations or yearning to prove a point, his compassionate guitar movements speak in memories. His debut, Affirmed, featured melodic remembrances of heroic race horses, while Hard for to Win and Can’t Be Won returns home, rediscovering a place that holds his truest spirit.
The beautiful, easily digestible melodies of Affirmed evoke John Fahey comparisons, but his return to the studio strives to experiment with the formula and make the performance his own. The new song structures make Hard for to Win undeniably impressive, each adventure unpredictable and emotionally provoking. “First Field Path” speeds along with these intentions in full effect, placing potent pauses between each transition building serious momentum. “What Can’t Be Won” digs through the emotions of a lost past, but he finds his way out to find positivity through spirited pacing and repetition.
The same redemption comes calling later, when other instruments are introduced to the setting, lifting dark moods. “Coll Mackenzie (Archie Fisher)” runs through his noticeably stronger vocal chords, narrating the story of a man of honor and valor. Piano accents, soothing harmonies, and swift violin solos brighten the scene and make his sorrowful storytelling fit into the stream of the record.
Salsburg’s exploration of a more personal past not only expands the depth of Hard for to Win and Can’t Be Won, but also provides a sincere resonance far beyond the average folk record. Instead of slipping into the solitude, loneliness, and longing he sings about, his richly depicted journeys explore the inner self and uncover deep-seated feelings.
Essential Tracks: “First Field Path”, “What Can’t Be Won”