Album Review: Douglas Kramer Nye – No Good Samaritan

No Good Samaritan
No Good Samaritan was recorded on a cassette four-track.

Douglas Kramer Nye 

No Good Samaritan

There is something amazing about watching a musician evolve from square one. Shawn Reed from Wet Hair described it as the “without a net” stage of a musician’s career: They tend to be a little more timid, experimenting with voices, phrasings and nuances for the first time. Onstage you can watch them fail and succeed during what can be a spellbinding evolution of their talent. Douglas Kramer Nye had only been playing the guitar for three months when he wrote his first songs. And, over the course of three years, he learned more guitar chords, wrote more songs and made connections around the Iowa City music scene. His album, No Good Samaritan, is the record of these first steps.

On stage, Nye is quiet, but sharp-witted—he once told a KRUI DJ who was having technical difficulties to speed it up because his “mother was listening.” He often plays alone with just his guitar, but has added a collection of A-list players from around Iowa City to his live sets. And, while Nye is captivating to listen to solo, No Good Samaritan greatly benefits from these collaborations.

“Vicious V” is a character study in the tradition of Lou Reed or Bob Dylan, telling a story about the good and bad elements of human nature. Accompanied by Skye Carrasco’s beautiful, lulling violin melody, the song turns a few simple chords into an impeccable tune.

The classic Johnny Western tune “The Ballad of Paladin” is given a stomping renovation by Nye. “Paladin” has sympathetic, droney guitar and vocal combinations and bare bones percussion.

“Pockets,” a live staple for Nye, benefits from Samuel Locke Ward’s minimal percussion—which sounds like an anvil being struck—and Ed Gray’s moody, sauntering electric guitar, a raw sound that reappears throughout the album, giving it an honest, naturalistic flavor.

The style only breaks periodically, like during “Reaper,” when a misplaced, distorted bass drum leads a haunting, baritone Nye singing, “Many things got strange, when you left me that day.” A track of guitar feedback from Locke Ward eventually develops, rounding out the song in an appropriately brutal, heartfelt crescendo.

Locke Ward recorded No Good Samaritan on a cassette four-track, giving the album a DIY sketchbook feel, and one that suits Nye. True to do-it-yourself form, Nye pressed the record at Palomino in Kentucky, and put it out himself. There is also a European pressing of the record. An Italian label called Almost Halloween Time, who put out Ed Gray’s last album, Old Bending River, pressed 110 copies of No Good Samaritan and are printing several different covers based on song titles on the album.

While Nye has been under the radar for the last couple years, No Good Samaritan is a sign that more great things can be expected from this songwriter and performer.

Brendan Lee Spengler is a musician and writer originally from Memphis, TN. As a session musician, he has over 30 records under his belt. He never says anything online that he wouldn’t say in front of a cop.

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