Nate Barksdale performs at Cole's Bar.
Nate Barksdale performs at Cole's Bar. Credit: Nancy Sanchez

Over the past few years, Nate Barksdale has become one of my favorite emerging Chicago soul artists. His releases tend to arrive in clusters, and so far this year they include a handful of singles and the late-January full-length The Colors I’ve Never Seen, a collaboration with Canadian producer Chong Wizard. The producer’s label, Chong Wizard Records, has a soft spot for Chicago acts and has put out vinyl and cassette versions of albums by prolific local rapper Chris Crack (who self-released the full-length Growthfully Developed a few days ago).

Barksdale’s work with Chong Wizard leans heavily on 1970s soul, and I prefer the songs that pull those vintage sounds into the present. On “Feet in the Sand,” Chong Wizard peppers a swooping, dilated electric-guitar loop with programmed percussion that emphasizes its computerized origin. Barksdale leaves his comfort zone to rap, and he maintains strict guardrails on his verses to lock his buttery voice into a tight flow—a self-imposed restraint that creates a scintillating tension with his usual loose, crooning singing style. Barksdale sounds like he’s reaching for paradise on “Feet in the Sand,” and this serene tune should help you relax for at least a few minutes.

“Feet in the Sand” appears on the January 2022 album The Colors I’ve Never Seen.

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