Banjo player, Nathan Bowles, who has played with Steve Gunn, The Black Twig Pickers and Pelt has assembled a band for the first time for his new album, Plainly Mistaken. Casey Toll of Mt. Moriah plays double bass whilst CAVE drummer Rex McMurry completes the three-piece. There are a few meditative solo pieces on show but the when the band get together they swing. Inspiration comes from places as diverse as the Appalachian tradition, Julie Tippetts, Cousin Emmy and Silver Apples.
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Nathan Bowles plays the banjo. We know that. He plays it pretty nicely indeed creating lovely simple things based around its plucking. This is the first time he's used a full band to expand his sound and it yields mixed results. Some of the pieces are like Bowles of old, just simple banjo lines intertwining and these like 'Umbra' are really nice but not anything we haven't heard from him before. Elk River Blues on the other hand utilises the full band (double bass and drums) is a pleasant rotating composition that goes precisely nowhere at all. Round and round it goes, as if on a loop. I can see why Bowles has mentioned Silver Apples as an influence - they used the banjo on one track 'Ruby' which he recreates as a two part thing as 'Ruby/In Kind I'.
I'm not as impressed as this as I thought I might be. Bowles here lacks emotion in his playing and seems to be out for a good time. There is, however, one brilliant track and that's 'Now If You Remember' which comes right at the very beginning of the album. Now this is really special indeed. He uses for the first (and only time on the record) and this works brilliantly. I wonder why he doesn't sing more often as this could have brought interest to repetitive tracks such as 'Elk River Blues'.
The album fails to deliver on it's opening brilliance but there's plenty to enjoy.
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