Join the parade..

After a successful career as a lead guitarist and backup singer for nationally touring bands, currently The Jackie Greene Band, singer-songwriter Nathan Dale is releasing his first solo album, Major Key's Parade.

This album, which Dale wrote, arranged, recorded, and produced, is far more than just a collection of pop-rock songs.

In the midst of the mp3 generation, Dale chose the iconic art form of a concept album for his first release. Major Key's Parade is about the life of a person -- from birth through various life changes to death -- presented with fictional characters loosely based on people in Dale's life.

Dale has strayed from the Americana roots-rock vibe of his current and past bands with a more art-pop sound that's been compared to some of Paul McCartney's work.

While stylistically diverse, the album is cohesive in theme, with each song telling part of a larger story that plays out like a theatrical performance.

Dale penned most of the songs as part of his grieving process after the 2005 suicide of his step-father -- a man's man who raised Dale from a young age.
"He was the guy who worked since he was 16 years old. It wouldn't matter if the living room wall collapsed, he'd be out there fixing it. He once built a truck from scratch.. the entire thing! When you're around somebody like that you get this sense that everything is going to be okay," Dale says.

The album serves as a tribute not only to his step-father, but to the type of man he represents.

"My whole intention with the record was to tell the common story. You don't need to be famous or be a person who invented anything. I think now more than ever we need to embrace the idea of men being men and be okay with that. That was the mission statement with the character," Dale says.

"This is the man who is being fazed out of our society by a service-based economy. If it were up to me, I'd want to have a celebration right now for all the men in American who are under their cars changing the oil for their wives. A lot of the services you have people come in and do, you could do yourself and they could be bonding moments within your family -- the things that keep a family together. Seeing that part of humanity go away as if it's an expendable part of our culture is just ridiculous," Dale says. "If we're going to live like that, there's a massive amount of sacrifice. That was my intention for this project -- throwing a party for the guy who serves as an anchor for a good, solid perspective of what a family is -- and what the greater sense of community is in our lives."

Major Key's Parade takes a floodlight perspective of such a man, leading through his life phases song by song, from beginning to end.

"You have the birth, you have this person going through his life, you have the love interest, you have the cynicism creep in, you have a bad event and from that you have the person letting go of that life," Dale says.

The album opens with the short soft orchestral instrumental, "Him."

"I intentionally book-ended the record with instrumental pieces," Dale says. "Him" starts on a minor key and ends on major, representing the pain of childbirth followed by the hope and promise of a newborn child.

Dale had written the second track "Ten Tiny Fingers" for a bandmate, a proud new dad who couldn't stop talking about his baby. Later when Dale was putting together his album, he realized this song would be a perfect beginning to his album's story.

The third and title track, "Major Key's Parade," is a song of hope and celebration. "It's my philosophical statement to live in the moment you're in. It's the only one you have, so live it to your fullest," Dale says.

"Grue," a song about the character's father, "gives the back story of why the bad day happens," Dale says.

This is followed by "Face First," the story of the person overcoming his rough childhood and building the strength to move on.

"My Wonder Girl" is a story of love and faithfulness.

"Oh Messiah!" is the song representing the person's cynicism creeping in. Dale wrote this in angry response to a real-life cult leader who was calling himself the Christ.

"'One Bad Day' is the statement that it's all it takes sometimes -- one bad day -- and that can be the end to all the rest," Dale says.

The last two full tracks were written during a road trip to Santa Barbara.

"Way Down" is about the person letting go of something -- because what he was holding onto is crumbling around him.

"With The Sea" originally was written as a song of comfort to his mother, but Dale rewrote it because he could never seem to finish it. In the end it was about a man who wanted a burial at sea.

"When I got back home, I went and recorded those two songs and I made them companion pieces, so they were like one song: He's way down with the sea. The chording is very similar. It's one cohesive thought -- one's the tension, one's the resolve.
"I finished those songs and that was it. It was like Bingo! I just wrote the end of my record. I just knew that was the dark ending."

Many of the songs intentionally combine somber lyrics with beautiful melodies. "There were all these cool '50s songs that would talk about things that were really depressing but they were beautiful songs and they were hits. People would walk around singing them. I wanted to do something like that -- create a little bit of a paradox," Dale says.

Complementing the music is the artwork on the CD package, which Dale says is important to the story. "The package is the parade. It starts in the light and it moves into the dark. It has some the characters from the songs."

Dale says the album would never have existed without his step-father's suicide. "It's definitely an album of grief," he says. "Suicide is a tragic thing. I'd never been through that before, so this was a way to confront it and move forward -- to be able to comfortably talk about it with people," Dale says.

It's unlike dealing with other deaths that may happen more slowly, he notes. "When something is so final and so abrupt, it's totally confusing for a long time and you have a tremendous amount of questions. It's really hard to sit with yourself and come up with any answers. You can't take it back. It's done. How do you accept something like that?

"I think the only thing I could do is what I did -- be creative and try to find consolation through my own music."

Listen to Major Key's Parade here.