LOVE, BONES & STARS
Angry Stick Recordings
The Last of The American Troubadours Sings of Love and More.
Nathan Bell pretty much strikes me as the ‘bloke along the street’ who nods and says ‘Hello’ whenever you see him; but you know nothing about him; but presume he works in a factory; or at least something manual.
He may even loan you one of his treasured Power Tools; but would more than likely to come along and do the job himself; refusing payment save for a cup of coffee.
Then another neighbour would tell you he is a singer-songwriter; and you wouldn’t believe them; but that’s what he is……something of The Lone Ranger of the Americana scene.
He is the latest in a long line of blue collar troubadours; singing for and about the common man; who comes in all ages and hues, and his last two albums have been among the angriest I’ve ever heard from a Folk Singer; and just what the world needed; and indeed still needs today. .
Although I was told what to expect; I was still very pleasantly surprised by the intricate sensitivity in Would Be a Blackbird (for Leslie Irene) which opens this album; yet I shouldn’t be as Nathan has proved many times what a clever songwriter he is; so writing and dedicating a song to his wife of 30 years was always destined to be full of rich and dark beauty; wasn’t it?
As with the rest of the songs here; where he neatly blends Folk into Country and Country into Folk; the arrangement is delicately simple (guitar/concertina/harmony vocals) yet the end result is very powerful indeed.
Nathan tells us that there are both old and new songs here; but it’s impossible to tell which have been residing on a shelf gathering dust and which are as fresh as a daisy.
We don’t find out the real story behind the songs; with A Day Like This, Molly Had a Baby and the fascinating My Kid all being too literate not to based in real life happenings; and coincidentally each is dedicated to a named recipient too; so I guess they are, but such is thw way Bell delivers a song you will know someone who fits each sentiment too.
Then there are a couple which come from a heart that truly knows the meaning of love; which is more of a rarity than you’d expect…….Gold Wedding Ring and Whiskey You Win both spring immediately to mind; but Fragile will leave you wondering whether it’s about a break up or possibly even a death; but it’s fair to say it’s one of the finest songs I’ve heard in a long long time.
It’s not always fair to compare one songwriter with another; but as most of the acts I cover remain unknown to the populace at large I feel obliged to do so; with Nathan Bell’s ‘lived in’ and ‘world weary’ singing style being not unlike Kris Kristofferson or Rodney Crowell; and his songwriting isn’t too far away from them either; but I hear a feminine sensitivity too, with Nanci Griffith and Gretchen Peters too in Metal as well as Faulkner and Four Roses; which is quite some feat.
I don’t know why but historically I tend to steer away from title tracks as my ‘Favourite’ in my reviews; but here LOVE, BONES & STARS, LOVE’S BONES & STARS, of which there are two versions included, is the only contender in a really strong heavyweight division, as the story and complex detail Bell winds and weaves in every line makes this one of those rarities that will make you hold your breath so as not to miss a note; and then press repeat just to confirm the songs is as good as you thought; then you will think it was even better the second time!
LOVE, BONES & STARS is the fourth and last in what he calls his Family Man series; and if it is it’s a beautiful way to close this chapter in his life, before opening a whole other even more exhilarating one too.
#Tucked away at the back of the sleeve notes is a delightful note; that most people will miss; but I think it’s quite appropriate here “No autotune was used in the making of these recordings.”
#There is another new release on his website; the Live Bootleg Er Gwaetha Pawb A Phopeth which was recorded in November 2017 in Newport, Wales and will make an ideal Christmas Present for anyone you know who loves ‘our type’ of music.
Released September 24th 2018