(Paradise of Bachelors, out Fri 5 Oct)
Multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles showcases his abilities with his new album Plainly Mistaken which combines his banjo and percussion skills with a full band setup.
The album begins with a song written by a child. Now If You Remember was composed by seven year-old Jessica Constable for Julie Tippetts’s 1975 album Sunset Glow. Bowles version of the song dances along a repeating piano beat that creates a very graceful feel. His voice adds to this effect by being rather soft and very soothing. This is also one of the few times lyrics will appear on the album.
Following that is the ten minute beast of a track The Road Reversed. Here Bowles gets his first chance to truly stretch his banjo and percussion muscles. Along with a double bass accompaniment the melody from the banjo encourages movement.
Tracks like Elk River Blues, Ruby and Fresh and Fairly So demonstrate Bowles’ collaborative abilities, providing fairly upbeat bluegrass tunes. But alongside these tracks are the more dour Umbra and Girih Tiles. These tracks are solo and carry with them a solemn weight.
The mix of Bowles’ own writing and his interpretations of other bluegrass songs leaves the album with a good mix of emotions. The fun dancing of Ruby is strongly contrasted with the unsettling experimentation of In Kind I – two parts of the same track. This experimentation is later developed in the improvised In Kind II, a thoroughly unnerving track that is luckily counterbalanced with the closing Stump Sprout.
Bowles has injected a significant amount of both sorrow and gaiety into this album. His ability to control the tone of the album so succinctly is commendable, but for those who do not like bluegrass music, it is unlikely this album with win them over. This wonderful, yet specialist, album is technically sound but not overly engaging for those who do not listen to this particular style of music.