In the song “No Stopping Us Now,” the first of ten tracks that we’ll discover inside of Nathan King’s All Eyes on You, King rises from the obscurity of underground stardom and asserts himself as the smoky-singing country crooner that Nashville has been missing in recent years, and furthermore, as an adept student of the incomparable school of musicianship that is rock n’ roll. He lays into the riffs with his razor-sharp vocal melodies and cuts a sophisticated hook both here as well as in the blustery power ballad “Just One Night,” but by the time “Redneck” comes into focus, it’s clear what his real mission is in All Eyes on You; flexing some serious guitar muscle. The heavy rock rhythm slips right into the title track and sets us up for the relaxed catharsis of leadoff single “I Don’t Drink Like I Used To” perfectly. There’s a lot of color to the instrumental side of King’s latest record, and while it doesn’t shortcut us with the heartfelt imagery presented in its verses, you could definitely make the argument that the first half of the album is exclusively dedicated to exploring the sonic depth of its creator.

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“Run It Down” welcomes the second act of All Eyes on You, and it’s at this point where King begins to devote more of his attention to the narrative in the lyrics. “Last First Kiss” and “Outskirts In” have got a streamlined experimentalism that I really want to hear more of in future efforts; through an erudite approach to the soundboard, the vocal track is sewn directly into the delicate fabric of the instrumental melody in this pair of songs, and there’s even a point in “Outskirts In” where it’s hard to tell where one strand of melodic ribbonry starts and another begins. “425” and “Teal” are the most traditional country songs on the record and play more to King’s influences than they do the progression of his artistry, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call them throwaway tracks at all. All Eyes on You is not your typical country record, nor is Nathan King your typical country singer, but I appreciate his ability to meld familiar formulaic prose with an exceptionally experimental tone in his song structures that, from where I sit, places him in the top tier of his peer group from a versatility perspective.

I’ve never been the biggest country fan in the world, but you don’t have to be to enjoy what Nathan King is bringing to the table in All Eyes on You. From “No Stopping Us Now” to “Teal,” there’s hardly ever a dull moment to behold in this tracklist, and in a season that has been underwhelming for country, folk and roots rock artists both young and old, it’s all the more an exciting listen. King has been developing his style for a minute now, and in the last year he’s come into his own and cultivated a sound that doesn’t blend into the crowd. He’s well on his way to penetrating the Nashville hierarchy, and for me, this album is tangible evidence supporting as much.

Michael Rand

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