NATHAN BOWLES

UNCUT - - New Al­bums - ROB HUGHES

Plainly Mis­taken PAR­ADISE OF BACH­E­LORS 8/10 North Carolinian un­packs a fresh box of won­ders

MUCH like his late friend Jack Rose, Bowles has de­voted his cre­ative life to ex­pand­ing the di­a­logue be­tween mod­ernist drone and old-time moun­tain mu­sic. It’s some­thing he’s ap­proached from a num­ber of an­gles over the past decade, be it with Ap­palachian folk devo­tees the Black Twig Pick­ers, im­prov en­sem­ble Pelt or his own solo ca­reer.

Plainly Mis­taken is an­other scin­til­lat­ing ad­di­tion to his CV. As a prime il­lus­tra­tion of what Bowles is all about, the al­bum in­cludes “Ruby”, ini­tially recorded in 1946 by Cousin Emmy And Her Kin­folk. Es­sen­tially a blue­grass clas­sic later made fa­mous by The Osborne Brothers and Buck Owens, Bowles messes with the for­mula by tak­ing his cue from the highly per­cus­sive Sil­ver Ap­ples ver­sion of the late ’60s. It’s an in­spired mo­ment, im­bued with a frisky sense of carte blanche.

The ma­jor point of dif­fer­ence be­tween Plainly Mis­taken and his pre­vi­ous solo work is that he’s not alone. Ten-minute in­stru­men­tal “The Road Re­mem­bered” finds him lead­ing a band for the first time, namely dou­ble bassist Casey Toll (last heard with Jake Xerxes Fus­sell) and Cave drum­mer, Rex McMurry. Bowles’ nim­ble banjo skirts around the heart of this riv­et­ing epic, which slows and quick­ens against cir­cu­lar drum pat­terns and a low drone. In true folk tra­di­tion, the trio also set about re­claim­ing Bowles’ own ren­di­tion of Ernie Car­pen­ter’s “Elk River Blues” – ini­tially in­cluded on 2012’s A Bot­tle, A Buck­eye – as a high-step­ping reel. This is in sharp con­trast to “In Kind II”, a hum­ming sound paint­ing that serves to dis­play the trio’s more avant-garde lean­ings.

There are times, too, when Bowles re­verts to his de­fault solo po­si­tion. “Girih Tiles”, for in­stance, em­ploys a mel­low­tone, a kind of banjo/bazouki hy­brid, on a piece that aligns him to John Fa­hey’s Amer­i­can Prim­i­tive aes­thetic. And the lovely “Um­bra” is so sparse that it feels like a pri­vate med­i­ta­tion. What­ever the set­ting, Bowles’ mu­sic is rarely less than se­duc­tive, the prod­uct of both a gifted multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist and rest­less cul­tural for­ager.

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