Tag Archives: Americana

Nathan Bowles – A Bottle, A Buckeye (2012)

Nathan Bowles - A Bottle, A Buckeye (2012)

Nathan Bowles is a teacher living in the mountains in Southwestern Virginia and is one part of the Black Twig Pickers, who I reviewed recently.

This album represents only a minor diversion for Bowles, who keeps up the spirit of the Black Twig Pickers, by playing traditional folk songs, alongside original compostions and tunes learned from local mountain folk; however, here, it is just one man, his banjo, a bottle of whiskey and a heap of old-time charm.

Bowles doesn’t suffer for the lack of accompaniment using specific banjo techniques to generate a backing rhythm, which includes hitting the body of the banjo with your palm and/or flicking your nails across the strings, which he does with such steady talent.

One thing that does stand out is the bowing of the banjo on the intro to Beans, a metallic growl leads into a mournful and beautiful melody, showcasing Bowles’ rhythmic ability on the instrument, before a descent into metallic noise as it is bowed to within an inch of its life, screaming as it goes.

Bowles shows himself to be a master of his instrument on an excellent debut, mixing innovation and tradition.

Favourite tracks: Beans, Snaps, Craig Street Hop

Spotify link: Nathan Bowles – A Bottle, A Buckeye
Sneak peak: 

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The Black Twig Pickers – Rough Carpenters (2013)

The Black Twig Pickers - Rough Carpenters (2013)

Music is a fluid, dynamic thing, constantly moving, evolving and renewing; much can be made of genres and fashion, but in many cases it is so hard to define as genres intermix, and themselves change. Progression is a natural part of the evolving nature of music; it actually blows my mind to think that there are genres that haven’t happened yet (either naturally or synthetically). But one thing that should never be lost in this progression is the past. Thankfully, unlike biological evolution, music evolution is a relatively recent thing and, although there is surely lost music, tradition, academic emulation and finally recording allows us the benefit of keeping extant music extant.

The Black Twig Pickers are conversationalists from Appalachia in the central East mountain region of the USA. They follow the first method of preservation: tradition. Hailing from Virginia and West Virginia, they play “old time” traditional folk music from the region, but they eschew an academic approach to this preservation. Instead, they learn by listening and doing; seeking out old players and old recordings to emulate.

Folk music is enduring because of its simplicity and conservatism  Here, there is no deviation from the instrumentation which makes this music distinctive: the fiddle, the banjo, harmonica and guitar. Most of the tunes are upbeat, bluegrass-esque jigs, exemplified by Rough Carpenters and Elkhorn Ridge, that instantly get the foot tapping, while others, such as Blind Man’s Lament and Where the Whippoorwills are Whispering Goodnight, are sorrowful tunes.

This is a great slice of Americana, totally raw and unpretentious; a music style that has survived a hundred years and, if the Black Twig Pickers have their way, will for a hundred more.

Favourite tracks: Elkhorn Ridge, You Play the High Card and I’ll Play the Ace, Sift the Meal and Save the Bran

Spotify link: The Black Twig Pickers – Rough Carpenters
Sneak peak: