IT’S STILL pretty weird out there right now, right? I think it’s getting better; thank the sweet lord for the gift of music.
And one area in which 2021 is shaping up to be really interesting year is in the field of solo Americana musicians who’ve been carving their own, unspooling instrumental path coming out and entering into album-length dialogues with each other. That’s a very cool thing if you’re at all over in the Takoma/Jack Rose/John Fahey school of guitar essaying.
We’ve had news that Marisa Anderson and William Tyler are gonna drop a conversation of a guitar record later in the summer; there’s been an excellent two-way street of a record from Cameron Knowler and Eli Winter for American Dreams, on which six strings became twelve; and last and so very, very far from least, there’s a banjo and guitar meetin’ for the first time between friends and fellow travellers in a grand old tradition, Chicago’s Bill MacKay and North Carolinan Nathan Bowles, entitled Keys, out on Drag City in just a few short weeks.
And today – pretty much this second, in fact – they’ve dropped a video for the deep, rootsy pastoralism of “Dowsing” – and, y’know, with this pair and their stringed divining rods, you’re in safe hands. They’ll slake your melodic thirst with a track that’s languid and slow, the perfect, evocative interplay for a long day; pace not race. Strings squeak and it has an almost medieval folk decorum, progresses through movements of intricate, eye-to-eye harmony.
Having performed together only a handful of times before they laid Keys down, Bill and Nathan lock together in a convivial musical understanding on an album we note in coming weeks as focusing “… wholly on the interplay of the two players and their instruments, how they mesh and in how many ways, a real joy in creation ringing through.
“The songs within veer from experimentally fragmented to delicious instrumental interplay, homage to the roots of the musics, bluegrass, purer folk, hoedown reels, and all with a little bottled sunshine.
“It’s a perfect April album, the renewal of spring all around, and Christ knows it’s been a grind.
“Set your speakers up so you can lie back in this record out by your door in the late afternoon sun with a long drink, and let Bill and Nathan take care of the rest. A beauty.”
The video chronicles Nathan’s winter meanders through the forests of his home Old North State, lit with shafts of sun and deep in the rich, historical mulch of the land.
Look out for our review of the album roundabout the morning of April 5th.
William Tyler, Black Twig Pickers, Jack Rose fans; please come on over and pull up a pew. These guys have some lovely stories to tell.
Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles’ Keys will be released by Drag City on April 9th digitally, on CD and on vinyl; order your copy now at the label shop or from your trusted local record store.