Thursday, November 18, 2021

Nathan Bell - Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn’t Happen Here) (Singular Recordings, 2021)

Nathan Bell is a very interesting blues and roots musician that mixes well thought out topical songs in a mode similar to Otis Taylor with anguished personal tunes that clearly come from the heart. Bell plays fine electric and acoustic guitar, adding some harmonica for good measure in addition to singing his original lyrics with vocal support from guests like Patty Griffin and Regina McCrary. Bell is a fantastic storyteller, whether singing a more standard blues about the horrors of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana on "Angola Prison," or the more modern take on violence with the track “American Gun.” He circles back to this theme later in the album with the song “Mossberg” in which the character buys a shotgun as the solution to all of the problems he he his facing, only to literally bury the weapon at the last minute, when he realizes what he might be capable of. "Retread Cadillac (Lightnin')" is a wonderful song that welds a great guitar lead beat to the retelling of some great stories about the legendary bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins. He puts these stories in song form in very well, singing about the legend of Lightnin' as one would sing about other American folk heroes like John Henry or Casey Jones. He ends the album with a gospel song taken at an obtuse angle, shaming his invented character that Jesus isn't impressed with him or his folding money. "Folding Money" is a song that sticks with you, leaving an impression like the rest of the album. Nathan Bell plays the blues in a humble and unassuming manner singing songs of fear and hard won success, leavened by humor and grace. This fine album is very accessible and should appeal to a wide range of music fans from blues purists to roots rock explorers. Red, White and American Blues (it couldn't happen here) - amazon.com

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