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