On the self-titled debut from Lake Nakoma, producer/composer Heath Fogg and singer/songwriter Colin Woltmann share a batch of songs touched with the magic of mutually illuminating collaboration. After crossing paths at a 2018 party hosted by Fogg’s Alabama Shakes bandmate Zac Cockrell, the two Alabama-based musicians teamed up for the recording and reimagining of several of Woltmann’s older songs, quickly discovering an undeniable chemistry that soon led to their creating new material together. Rooted in a potent alchemy of their distinct sensibilities—Woltmann’s penchant for finespun melodies and poetic introspection, Fogg’s imagination and ingenuity as a guitarist and producer—Lake Nakoma ultimately builds a dreamlike and endlessly shapeshifting sonic world around its down-to-earth lyrical reflection.
Arriving on the heels of Brown Recluse (Woltmann’s 2021 solo debut) and Sun On Shade (a 2020 collaborative project produced by Fogg), Lake Nakoma marks Woltmann’s first experience in developing songs with other musicians. “I had only shown a handful of people my music before Heath and I started getting together—I’d been writing and recording for years, but always by myself and hardly ever sharing it,” he says. Produced by Fogg and Woltmann and engineered by Ben Tanner (Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Nicole Atkins), Lake Nakoma sets Woltmann’s warm vocals and understated acoustic guitar against an intricate yet unfussy backdrop sculpted through Fogg’s use of synth and drum machines and programmed beats. Thanks in part to Fogg’s mercurial guitar work—as well as contributions from Tanner (also a keyboardist), Cockrell (on bass), and drummer Derrek Phillips—the album embodies a propulsive energy even in its most subtle moments, such as the LP-opening lead single “Burying Old Bones.” With its delicate assemblage of sonic details (woozy guitar tones, ethereal synth, a spontaneously captured field recording of a chirping bird), the gorgeously sprawling track takes on a gentle momentum as Lake Nakoma channel the pain and revelation of necessary change. “I wrote that at a time when my wife and I were dealing with a lot of difficult transitions in our lives,” Woltmann recalls. “There’s a theme of transformation woven throughout the record, and that song is the beginning phase of that whole process.”
One of the first songs recorded by Lake Nakoma, the beat-driven “Early Snow” exemplifies a particularly charmed aspect of their musical partnership. “Even before I met Heath I admired his guitar playing, and as we were working together I noticed a parallel between how he layers his guitar parts and the way I layer my vocals,” says Woltmann. “When those two types of layering happen together, it brings everything to life in a way that feels really magical.” On “I’ve Got A Friend,” Lake Nakoma shifts into a glorious burst of garage-punk frenzy as Woltmann recounts a real-life story of reconnecting with a friend struggling with addiction. “There’s a heaviness to that one, so we toyed with the idea of making it into a dark, sludgy rock song,” says Fogg. “We came up with five different iterations before we found what felt right, which is something that plays with certain rock elements without sounding much like a straight-ahead rock song.” And on “Daylight,” Lake Nakoma close out the album on a moment of sweetly delivered reassurance, grounded in the graceful interplay between Woltmann’s wistful vocals and Fogg’s sublimely nuanced performance on guitars, bass, keys, and percussion. “To me ‘Daylight’ felt like a bookend to ‘Burying Old Bones,’ in that it’s about being ready to change and get out of the rut you’ve found yourself in,” says Woltmann. “Sometimes even in a bad situation it can be difficult or traumatic to move forward, but in this song there’s a sense of hope that you’re strong enough to take that step and make the change happen.”
For Fogg and Woltmann, the making of Lake Nakoma allowed for a profound expansion of their sense of musical possibility. “It’s always been in my nature to experiment and mess around with different ways to build the songs up,” says Fogg. “What I loved about making this record was that Colin was completely open to however we might get from point A to B, which made everything feel so freeing and fun.” “Even though there was something inspiring about working in a very limited way like I had in the past—just me in a room, recording on my iPhone—working with Heath gave me a whole different kind of freedom,” Woltmann adds. “Since I was so new to collaboration, at first I thought maybe it felt exciting just because I was so green and naïve. But now it’s evident to me that, especially when we don’t overthink things and let everything happen naturally, there’s something really unique and special that happens whenever the two of us combine forces.”