Natural Child – Hard in Heaven

Rating: ★★★★ ·

After catching Natural Child several times over the last year, I’ll gladly say I’m a huge fan of their live sets.  I was hoping that they’d capture that raw intensity on their latest effort, Hard in Heaven, and for the most part they do push that onto listeners. But, when they decide to hold back and slow it down, just a touch, it might just make the record more enjoyable through and through.

When I pressed play the first time, I got exactly what I wanted with “Laid, Paid, and Strange.”  It begins with a furious guitar riff, and the group’s two man approach to vocal delivery snaking their way through lyrics about, well, getting laid and making money. They even add a crunchy guitar solo mid-track just to keep it interesting.  “Rock Bottom” bangs in next featuring fuzzed out guitar stomping and guitar soloing as the rhythm section pounds out a groove that definitely fuels the live energy of the trio.

Then they mix it up, slowing things down for a few, though the next tracks are actually growing to be some of my favorites. “What You Gonna Do” is almost a garage rock ballad, but it’s even slower, with the bass work stealing the show throughout.  And those wild vocals, from the earlier tracks, sounds smoother and polished, in just the right spots–these guys can do it all!  The title track from Hard in Heaven isn’t even close to a ballad; it’s a long, drawn out blue-y jam with some quieted vocals just walking longingly through the song.  Listening to this track will definitely give you more appreciation for the group’s abilities as musicians; there’s not to many people doing it up this way anymore.

And then Natural Child is back at it again with “B$G P$MP$N.”  Sure, the lyrics are sort of juvenile, but it’s clear just listening to the song that the band is having a blast just banging songs like this one out. This is the sort of song that has made these guys so endearing live; they’re passionate, no matter what they’re doing on stage, and I can appreciate that.  Still, the rest of the record is full of more surprises that show the band evening out their sound throughout Hard in Heaven.

“Derek’s Blues” nears the end of the record with a Soutuhern rock influenced jam that nears 6 minutes.  It’s almost like a party rock type, but for those that like to drown their sorrows and good times in cases of beer and bottles of whiskey.  Or there’s the group sing-a-long that ends the record, “Let the Good Times Roll.”  It still has a playful lyrical approach, but even then, there’s a classic storytelling aspect to what their doing.  The song’s mostly a guitar strummed affair, but it’s got bits and pieces of that new Natural Child flare, making it another pleasant winner that keeps me playing the record all the way through.

I guess some might be taken aback at first by this new Natural Child.  But, you can see their mark all over the record, even when they break out a blue-influenced jam.  They’re never going to take themselves too serious, and we all benefit from that. Hard in Heaven isn’t as balls to the wall as I wanted it to be, but after getting to spend some quality time with the album, I’m glad it’s not.  This version sounds more complete than what I had in my head, and I base that on the group’s ability to balance their sound from start to finish, leaving you with a refreshing amalgam of garage, punk, blues, and Southern rock that you won’t want to put down.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/05-BG-PMPN.mp3]

Download:Natural Child – B$G P$MP$N [MP3]

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