"When Vancouver, British Columbia's Nathen Aswell talks about his debut CD "Little by Little" one can't help but think that he's talking about a journey. In the liner notes, he writes about the journey of making the 13 tracks that make up the CD.
The cover shot features a path through the woods, no doubt taken on one of those crisp fall days that the West Coast of Canada is famous for. And the songs themselves reflect a multi-faceted journey: a musical quest and a personal one.
I first met Nathen at the (Chapman) Stick seminar he hosted in Vancouver back in the mid-90s. At the time he was playing Stick. Since then, he has moved to NS Stick, yet another journey. On NS Stick, as this CD shows, Nathen has found his instrumental voice.
Originally a bass player, the bass grooves on "Little by Little" are tight, solid, and crisp, with no shortage of pop-funk feel. The NS Stick chords and melodic accompaniments are likewise crisp and can't help but reflect the influence of another wonderful NS Stick player: Don Schiff.
Nathen's musical voice is strong - think of well crafted, Police inspired pop rock tunes – but the real highlight is Nathen's
actual voice. This guy can sing! Open, honest, real, enveloping, you can hear all this and more the instant Nathen's vocals start. The lyrics are coming from a deeper place and it is as if Nathen has found a way
into that deeper place and effortlessly lets those words launch themselves, with passion and commitment, out into the world. Of course the amount of effort it takes to sound effortless is obvious, but since the art is to conceal the art, then Nathen's singing can only be described as masterful.
Two songs stand out for me. The title track, "Little By Little" has gotten into my head, and pleasantly doesn't seem to want to get out, and his voice on "Psalm 96" is simply too much to try and define in these words. I keep going back to the idea of "Little by Little" as the reflection and representation of a journey. It sounds like Nathen's journey towards music and personal discovery, or perhaps little snapshots taken along the way.
Either way, many thanks to Nathen for sharing both the road and some of his stops along the road with me. If you're looking for some inspirational, self-affirming music to accompany you on your journeys, I invite you to check out Nathen's music too." - Jim Reilly, StickNews
"You'll hear flashes of influences like Steely Dan occasionally but this is mostly an original set with some inspired arrangements.
- John McLaughlin, Vancouver Sun
"Vocalist Nathen Aswell treads an easy-listening path to enlightenment on his debut CD Little By Little. Blue-eyed soul, lite funk and upbeat pop combine with Aswell's assured delivery for a pleasant, unbumpy, ride." - Shawn Conner, The Vancouver Courier
"Vancouver's Nathen Aswell has a lot going for him. He plays a half- dozen instruments, sings in a clear, expressive tenor and, as a
first- time co-producer (with Andreas Schuld), gets a solid sound from his
studio band. All those important elements are in place. . .The better tunes include the title track, a soft rock number with a catchy hook and some fine vocal work, and Be Still, a ballad where Aswell's voice and Finn Maniche's cello are right in synch." - Marke Andrews, Vancouver Sun
"If you ever need some listening music
that is positive, happy and
uplifting then you must acquire a copy of a CD called "Little By Little". Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Nathen Aswell has recorded an upbeat and uplifting performance of 11 originals. Nathen's crystal-clear voice is well out front in this recording and his vocal performances show that he has an incredible range (a la Stevie Wonder) and knows how to use it. There are plenty of styles presented on this CD. Just when you think it is going to be contemporary rock/pop throughout, Nathen comes up with a composition called "More Than Enough" that takes you back to the 30s style. This song is complete with a well-done vocal imitation of a trumpet solo just like the Mills Brothers (remember them?) used to do. The next track on the CD is a smooth jazz waltz called "Just Like This". Nathen's vocal is accompanied by guitarist Daryl Jahnke and drummer Shawn Soucy. A great duet sung on a song called "Breathe" features a flawless a cappella performance by Nathen and Linda Kidder. Another composition called "Psalm 96" and sung solo a cappella by Nathen uses
reverb very effectively and the performance is simply the best.
Other guest performers on the CD include drummer Phil Robertson,
guitarist Andreas Schuld, cellist Finn Manniche and percussionist Lauri Lyster. The CD was mixed and mastered by Miles Hill.
- Bob Hales, "UPBeat"
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