Nate Kipp Album Review: The Holding Pattern

* Nate Kipp * The Holding Pattern * Real McCoy Records *

Nate Kipp’s second record just might be the most listenable thing anyone will hear out of Texas in 2012. Aptly named, The Holding Pattern is a steady rotation of somewhat sonically similar songs whose core tempo never ranges far at all from a friendly shuffle.  No opportunities to get the belt buckle polished close, and certainly nothing at all to inspire a bourbon-fueled leap for the chandeliers.   Instead, what Kipp serves up here is a consistent diet of well played stories just upbeat enough to keep boots scootin’ and longnecks tippin’.

There’s a danger in the approach, because a casual listener could easily tag the record as rather nondescript and just move on to whatever’s next on iTunes.  It would be a mistake, given the subtle nuances and charming dance of lyrics Nate has laced throughout the track list.  Meaning, one supposes, that this is either a marketing mistake in a Jersey Shore world or, alternately, simply the perfect record for these addled and soundbite-riddled times.

We’re skewing toward the latter.  There will be better records available this year, or so the critics’ fabled year-end lists will tell you.  But there won’t be many you’ll find yourself gravitating back to more consistently than The Holding Pattern.  Its simplicity and charm are undeniable, and its melodies wrap around the cerebral cortex and grow roots down into the soul.  The stories range freely across a wide swath of emotional landscape.  There’s a sense of mysticism, longing, and beauty coursing through “El Paso” that would make a Kevin Higgins proud.   “The Ones I Love,” on the other hand, rumbles through the mind with the sensibilities of some lost hobo’s lament:

Somebody please tell me if you can

Break it down real slow so I can understand

How come the better life never seems to stay

How come the ones I love I always push away

Introspection and self-recrimination walk hand in hand throughout the track list, always brutally poignant yet wrapped in a wry wit and a sense that this life is all just a process anyhow.   One gets the sense it’ll work out in the end, and there aren’t any lethal train wrecks in sight.  “Accident Waiting To Happen” is a perfect example, as pretty and engaging a traditional country number as you can imagine wrapped around the story of another love gone wrong.  The sort of earworm you wind up humming in traffic, without realizing you hope the title doesn’t come true in the sea of tail lights.

“Frank,” on the other hand, is a radio-ready ditty laced with both terrific musicianship and a lyrical twist worthy of the original Derailers.

Let me start by being frank with you

And do all those things that Frank would do

Darlin’ one more night

Beside candlelight

Reminisce the whole night through

We won’t worry with breakfast in bed

With the chance that Frank shoots me dead

But in the meantime to tell the truth

I just want to be Frank with you

It’s an endearing song, sung with a sincerity that holds any potential cheeseball factor easily at bay.   And then, as if to prove the point, “The Odessa Song” follows close behind “Frank” with a melody and lyric as haunting as the West Texas nights themselves.  Exceptional stuff, understated and simple as everything else here, yet bursting with detail and nostalgia and hope and loss.

At its core, aside from being an exceptional record, The Holding Pattern may be the best possible reminder that this life and its landscapes and travails and triumphs don’t have to be bombastic in order to be material and evocative.  It’s a terrific record top to bottom, fit for airplay from the feed store to the boardroom.   Kipp’s life has revolved around music from his earliest years, and his travels since have taught him how to observe and report and connect on primal levels.   Combine the two and wrap the results in a competent, evocative and assured vocal of the kind Kipp is blessed with, you’ve got something worthwhile.   This is an artist to watch, and The Holding Pattern, his second release, augurs well for his future.

~ Dave Pilot


Dave Pilot lives in north Texas with his first good wife (don’t ask about the other one), seven horses, and five dogs.  When his wife’s not looking, he tries to figure out ways to feed the 987 or so cats to the coyotes out behind the fenceline.  When he’s not trying to raise his kids to turn out better than he did, he’s hitting historical sites on his way to honky-tonks from Denton to Port Aransas. Visit Dave Pilot on Facebook.

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