Capital Region audiences probably know Nate Danker best for his metal band the Viking, who in their busiest years topped our Best Of list for that particular genre. The average Viking fan, however, might not recognize Danker in his solo incarnation, an acoustic baroque-folk act full of violins and sepia-toned sensibilities. What survived the transition was Danker’s direct and honest approach to songwriting and a mature sense of harmony that guides the lush orchestration on his debut album Texture.
Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) are two easy references to the camp from which Danker’s solo songwriting has emerged, and the packaging for Texture plays upon these same stripped-back, rustic sensibilities with plenty of flannel, denim and birch bark photographed in winter light. Tracks like “Balsam Fir,” with its pensive slide guitar part and breathy, close-proximity vocals, certainly make this case. Crickets even chirp in the background of campfire lament “Gates.” “How I Lionize You,” though, is more of an uptempo strummer in the vein of Mumford and Sons, with Viking drummer Jesse Winchester driving things on the snare, while “Owl Farm” draws its flavor from a traditional-sounding fiddle lead.
Violinist Noah Luft-Weisberg is often the factor that makes these tracks stand out, as on “Broken Weather,” for which a symphonette has been arranged to complement Danker’s deft finger picking. Justifiably, it’s when these two really lock in on the level of composition that Texture rises from a good pastoral acoustic album to a breathtaking piece of Americana. Tracks like “Marco Polo” and especially “Pallbearer” approach Grizzly Bear terrain, Danker’s vocals and dark chord voicings taking a page Daniel Rossen’s baroque-pop recipe book, while Luft-Weisberg’s arrangements swell for dramatic color and sweep through the mix to punctuate Danker’s lyricism.
Tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 28), Danker will debut this set of songs at the Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany), with Charlie Phillips and Nightmares for a Week supporting. He’s played around a bit with his quartet in recent months, but this one should be special opportunity to hear these arrangements fleshed out with a full string section.