Nai Palm – Needle Paw

“Where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” – Thomas Gray

Hiatus Kaiyote has made some of my favorites songs so when I heard their lead vocalist Nai Palm was releasing her debut, solo album I was very interested in how it might sound. I imagined the group’s widespread acclaim and cool affiliations would entice certain producers to be attached to the project, giving it a deep, eclectic “Soulquarian” feel. My introduction to the album was Homebody, a beautiful & sentimental acoustic wonder with awesome harmonies I took to be a great lead single but not the sign post for what the rest of the album would sound like. I later found out there are no “producers” at all on Needle Paw however, just Nai Palm, her guitar and some really talented background vocalists and Homebody was just the tip of the iceberg. To be honest, If you told me the entire album would be solely Nai Palm, her guitar and sensational vocal arrangements I would have been less driven to listen to the album. I’m glad I was unaware.

I jumped in my Jeep following the album’s arrival in the mail, pressed play, was greeted by a prayer then a version of HK’s Atari to start. I didn’t know the next song, Crossfire but even before the track seamlessly morphs into Tamia’s So Into You, I was strapped in for the first leg of a maiden voyage beyond compare. Keeping things familiar is a tool Nai Palm wields expertly throughout the album, with not only several covers of HK but also Bowie, Jimi, and RadioHead to ensure you’re never in danger of drowning in the unfamiliar. I don’t even think I realized the album was “acoustic” until track 6, her version of one of my HK favorites, Molasses which is immediately followed by an amazing rendition of Jimi’s Have You Ever Been to (Electric Lady Land). This Hendrix cover sounds like something Nai Palm’s friend Prince or even D’angelo would have constructed. Soulful, intricate and emotive guitar create a powerful document as fantastic as it is powerful. Those 2 words alone can actually be used to describe the album, Fantastic & Powerful.

I found myself posting about the album as I listened for the first time, and had a friend express his dismay at the entire album being all guitar. I told him Needle Paw has an intimate feel, like a private concert. Heartfelt songs and arrangements engage and draw you in and Nai Palm doesn’t release you until the final prayer at the end of the album. I’m glad I listened with no expectations and was able to appreciate and immerse myself in this experience. I’m sure you will as well.

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