Nathaniel Mayer

With the Tough and Lovely. Wednesday, November 24, at the Beachland Tavern.

The Final Cut Cleveland Cinemas Solon
Time was when the urban airwaves were fat with tunes from one-and-sometimes-two-hit wonders, who shared the waves and the charts with the big names. Artists like Dyke & the Blazers, Darrell Banks, and the Fantastic Johnny C. They recorded for small labels like Calla, Revilot, Double Shot, and Original Sound. Sometimes, if a record had a quick rise, a major-league player -- Atlantic, say -- might quickly ink a distribution deal with the indie (or maybe cover the hit with someone in their own big-time stable). Frequently, both label and artist faded as the airplay declined.

Detroit-born-and-bred Nathaniel Mayer is a survivor of those days. A breakout artist in his teens, he scored major national airplay in 1962 with the self-composed "Village of Love." Mayer's career soon tanked alongside that of the label he recorded for, the ironically named Fortune Records. His subsequent obscurity and rugged inner-city existence has at last been sidetracked by a deal with Fat Possum and the release of I Just Want to Be Held, a disc worthy of a Grammy nomination. It's a highly charged celebration of the glory days of indie soul music. A scorcher of a vocalist about midway between James Brown and O.V. Wright, Mayer attacks each track with present-tense punch and old-school authority. The vintage instrumental backup is infused, by way of guitar and keyboard, with more than a little garage-rock attitude.

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