There’s a certain energy and rawness to home recordings that bands rarely let slip through the padded walls of recording studios. A sound that Bob Dylan and The Band found in the basement of a big pink house in West Saugerties, New York, on The Basement Tapes. A sound that Bruce Springsteen created in the bedroom of his house in Colts Neck, New Jersey, on Nebraska. A sound that David Nance has captured in his home in Omaha, Nebraska, for his new album Staunch Honey.
This new album by David Nance mirrors the homebound reality many find themselves in during COVID. Nance spent two years meticulously working and reworking the songs on this album in his home in Omaha, Nebraska. He taped and mixed the album himself with some help from his bandmates Jim Schroeder and Kevin Donohue.
You can hear the home-recorded-ness of Staunch Honey on a song like “July Sunrise.” This jangly little song is driven by tambourine and bright guitar licks. A slight drive and distortion on his voice. Nothing fancy. Nance sings the song’s bridge in that intense “Blister In The Sun” whisper: “Bam Bam bu-bam bam.”
Nance has spent time making music in Nebraska and California. He has been releasing music online since at least 2011. A lot of that early work (which you can find on his Bandcamp) is musically dense and inaccessible. As well as original music, Nance has released covers of full albums. Two of these covers were the Beatles’ Beatles for Sale and Lou Reed’s Berlin.
In Beatles for Sale he mumbles through “I’m a Loser” like a grunge singer on tranquilizers. The album’s cover is the original Beatles cover with “These guys stink” handwritten in pink overtop. The album is painful to listen to. And that’s the point? Berlin, on the other hand… is actually just as unlistenable. If Nance is making fun of Lou Reed he also seems to be influenced by him.
The song “Sell it all night” from Staunch Honey sounds a lot like a Lou Reed song. From top to bottom. From the striking guitar riffs to the mundane lyrics to the whistling. The song is about what you can and can’t buy with money. Things you can buy; therapy, the cops, a doctor that won’t make mistakes. Things you can’t buy; time, friends, a heartbeat, what’s free. The catchy song is driven forcefully forward by guitar and drums.
While praising Nance’s home recordings, it wouldn’t be right to discredit his studio work. Negative Boogie is a great 2017 album that Nance made in studio for Ba Da Bing! Records. Still, Staunch Honey is special. It’s his first non-Ba Da Bing! record to appear on Spotify. It shows a level of musical restraint and artistic subtlety that would seem impossible next to an earlier album of his like Beatles for Sale.
The greatest evidence of this change is “My Love, The Dark and I.” This song begins with an electric guitar crackling out of the dark and then melting back into the night. The lyrics are grumbled but start something like: “Fresh rain on the road/ We were cruising, baby low/ And let my love take the wheel for a while.” The entire song is as simple as two people in love taking a drive in the dark. They lose track of time and the sun starts to rise: “What do you know? Sunrise.”
Staunch Honey is tagged on Bandcamp as “anti-music.” While some of Nance’s earlier music might earn the label anti-music, it’s not true of the songs this album. These songs speak for themselves. They’re just music.
Stream Staunch Honey here.