Track: Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles – ‘I See God’: that old time religion beautifully recast for guitar and banjo

Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles, photographed by Nick Brost

KEYS, the soon-come long-playing conversation between Chicago’s Bill MacKay on guitar and North Carolina’s Nathan Bowles at the banjo, ranges back and forth across the great bluegrass and guitar soli traditions, both pushing forward with free-flying chemistry and grounding their essaying in the canon of the form; and it’s the latter angle they’re examining on the single they’ve dropped this afternoon.

Ladies and gentlemen, gather around as they bring us some of that old time religion.

During the album sessions, Bill and Nathan pulled “I See God”, from the traditional songbook of E.C. and Orna Ball of Rugby, Virginia.

With a little judicious application of the pump organ to fill the shoes of Orna’s accordion, and Bill and Nathan’s natural harmonies, it’s at once and updating and a doffing of the cap to the songs that have lit the path down the decades.

It’s simple wonder and joy in creation, maybe something else we’ve lost as we pitch out some furious froth at username John1337577 on Twitter.

They take it as a duet, feeling being all, watching the rolling waves crashing on the shore, the little birds go flying high, and you just know they’re having a ball with this one; you can hear it, that they’re loving this country gospel cracker.

It’s kind of a surprise that the two haven’t got themselves into a studio before now, given a friendship and a musical chemistry that goes back a ways now; but as with the song, we can all be glad for the simple joys of creation, the love that Bill and Nathan bring to the form.

As for Keys itself? Well, that’ll be with us come April 9th, you’ll find some pre-sales information right down there; look out for our review of the record week commencing April 5th – we’ve noted that: “It’s a perfect April album, the renewal of spring all around … 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.

“William Tyler, Black Twig Pickers, Jack Rose fans; please come on over and pull up a pew.”

Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles’ Keys is released by Drag City on April 9th, digitally and on CD and on vinyl; order your copy now at the label shop or from your trusted local record store.

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