Nolan R. Chew Jr. records under the project name Star Prairie Project, and his album New Day at Dawn may remind you of Joe Walsh solo albums. This is because Chew’s ‘give a damn’ sometimes sounds like it’s busted. In other words, he’s going to create the music that makes him feel good, without caring if it pleases all the people, all the time. It’s a fun, carefree ride.
The album kicks off with a loud engine kick and a cloud of dust for “My 944,” which is a cool car song. It has a Beach Boys feel, both in style and content, in that it sounds a touch like “Do It Again,” including group backing vocals. Remember how the Beach Boys also sang about cars (along, of course, with girl songs and surfing tunes). A few of their best-known motor vehicle tracks include “409” and “Little Deuce Coup.” Thus, “My 944” joins a long line of fine songs about hot cars.
One of the most interesting and memorable songs on the album is called “Buffalo Bob.” It’s a stripped-down acoustic guitar backed track. It’s about a lovable loser who leaves the stresses of the big city and heads out to the country, where he buys a cabin, lives with his dog, and sells fireworks. He may not be a model citizen, but he found his peace in getting away from it all. “Buffalo Bob smokes weed on the job,” the lyric states at one point. The listener can just picture this nonconformist living his best life. Chew calls Buffalo Bob his hero toward the song’s end. In fact, Buffalo Bob listens to Chew’s songs and even sings along sometimes. He is, in short, what we’d all like to become after our worst days. An escapist from all the pressures put on us by modern life. Ah, but we can only be Buffalo Bob in our imaginations. Or can we? If Bob could make that jump, why can’t we? Maybe we can/should only live through him in song. Dropping out like Bob, well, that’s up to you.
In contrast, there’s a song on the album titled “Practical Man.” Practical man is the polar opposite of Buffalo Bob. But is he, really? Chew begins it by announcing, “I used to be a practical man,” so perhaps he’s more Buffalo Bob that he admits to being. No, Chew sounds more like the character in Supertramp’s “The Logical Song.” In that one, you may recall, this guy was raised on how to be such a logical (practical?) member of society. This guy found that being logical is not all it’s cracked up to be. Similarly, Chew sure sounds like he’s following the Buffalo Bob path, where he’s no longer “working for the man.” The crazier our world gets, the more many of us want to do what they did in the Sixties, which is to drop out of the whole dog-eat-dog world.
With his everyman sort of singing voice, Nolan R. Chew Jr. (aka Star Prairie Project) has given us a smart, relatable collection of heartfelt Americana music. It’s not complicated, but it’s sincere through and through. In the end, it sure sounds like a new day is dawning for Nolan R. Chew Jr.’s Star Prairie Project, and this new day appears to be a good one.