Nathan Long is a songwriter who is determined to make intelligent, lyrical music. Prone to taking side trips with his wacky sense of humor, Nathan always brings the listener back to themes of human longing, joy, and redemption.
The first eleven tracks of this album, "The Lost Son and Other Stories," work together to tell the story of the prodigal son, adapted from a parable of Jesus. In it, a son rejects his father, leaves home to squander his inheritance, and after some soul-searching, returns home to ask for forgiveness.
The story line has been changed in some respects, but the message of grace is the same. Most of the story is told from the perspective of the runaway son himself, from his rationalization of his behavior, his selfishness and anger, and ultimately, his joy in finding love that overcomes his faults. The musical styles of the songs are as varied as the emotions they express: slow and mournful, upbeat, angry, and elated.
Through it all, Nathan's music, delivered mostly with just a guitar and a voice, drives its message home with rhythmic, poignant lyrics. When he finds himself broke and alone in the big city, the prodigal son tries in vain to deny his feelings of despair:
"When I get home, I turn the TV on/I'm not alone; they keep me company/So many lives come through this room/They're all a blur, now mine is, too/Cause when you live in the big town you never see the stars/It's take and give in the big town, that's just the way things are."
The last few tracks of the album stand alone, and range from "Perseverance," a song about depression, joy, and the struggle between faith and reason, to "Trees," a bizarre song that claims trees are dangerous:
"They move slowly to belie the threat/politely stand by our houses and give shade to our pets/But the truth of the matter is not what it seems/and we gotta stop these trees!"
Listeners will have no trouble discerning that Nathan is a Christian, and the convictions of his faith color any serious thought expressed in his songs. But anyone who has been put off by the mindless repetitions and easy cliches of pop Christian radio will find in this music a faithful companion: honest and complex, never offering easy answers, but always striving on with hope. Non-Christian listeners will see more of themselves in this music than they expect, and may be encouraged by the hope it offers.
If music means more to you than a background to your other activities, if you have songs you go back to again and again like old friends, this CD will find a permanent home in your playlist and in your mind.