Nathan Bowles: February 12, 2015 Union Pool and January 31, 2015 Silent Barn – FLAC/MP3/Streaming

February 22, 2015


An canny, skilled and unpretentious kind of player, Nathan Bowles is nonetheless important not because of how he plays, but what he plays. There’s no shortage of banjo music circulating these days — the jam-band scene is filled with bands playing their own pabulum and covering the classic rock hits with the instrument, using it to deliver a little authenticity from the extra twang. Bowles’ career is the exact opposite of all of that — not only does he bring a new style and sound to Appalachian music, but he has an intrinsic knowledge of what a worthy song is, whatever its era.

First as a member of legendary Pelt, the multi-instrumentalist helped to make drone-based music that changed the conversation about what “folk” could be. With the Black Twig Pickers, he and his bandmates have gone deep into American history, both excavating and elevating lost and under-appreciated old-time music. Fitting, then, that his solo work, in particular 2014’s Nansemond, does some of both, giving us traditional Appalachian and Piedmont string music that’s infused with the sound and spirit of the modern avant-garde. Though “solo” in name, Nansemond is a full-band effort, allowing Bowles to produce tunes like the album’s bookends, “Sleepy Lake Bike Club” and “Sleepy Lake Tire Swing” that weave rich guitar textures around his virtuosic banjo work.

These sets at Union Pool and Silent Barn were true solo affairs, with Bowles the support act for Joan Shelley and Elisa Ambrogio, respectively. In front of two crowds that couldn’t have been more different, Bowles performed sets that delivered the full range of what’s meaningful about Nansemond. Both were all-Nansemond affairs that included the “Sleepy Lake” pieces and his straightforward medley of “Jonah and the Whale” and “Poor Liza Jane”. At Union Pool we got “Moonshine Is the Sunshine”, closer to the former numbers in tone, while at Silent Barn, Bowles added something more experimental to the reportoire, with Chuckatuck”, a song in which Tom Carter’s guitar work figures prominently on the record. You could’ve heard a pin drop among the Union Pool crowd, who Nathan thanked, almost baffled, for how respectful they were. If playing for the younger crowd at Silent Barn — who’d already been treated to a couple of punk bands — represented an uphill climb, Bowles didn’t show it; if anything, the spare arrangement of “Chuckatuck”, extended by three minutes versus the album version, ought to go down as one of that song’s best takes.

The Union Pool set was recorded with a soundboard feed from the house engineer Rob together with my Schoeps MK41 supercardiod microphones, while Eric PH recorded the Silent Barn gig with a straight soundboard feed from the engineer Mike, with only a tiny amount of his AKG 480 cardiods mixed in.

Download the Union Pool show [FLAC] | [MP3]

Download the Silent Barn show [FLAC] | [MP3]

Stream the Union Pool show:

Stream the Silent Barn show:

Nathan Bowles
Union Pool
Brooklyn, NY USA

Exclusive download hosted at
Recorded and produced by acidjack

Soundboard (engineer: Rob) + Schoeps MK41 (PAS)>KCY>Z-PFA>Sound Devices USBPre2 >> Edirol R-44 [OCM]>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Adobe Audition CS 5.5 (fades, compression, mix down)>Izotope Ozone 5 (effects, exciter)>Audacity 2.0.5 (track, amplify, balance, downsample, dither)>FLAC ( level 8 )

01 [intro]
02 Sleepy Lake Bike Club
03 [banter1]
04 Moonshine is the Sunshine [Jeffrey Cain]
05 [banter2]
06 Jonah and the Whale [traditional] / folk medley
07 [banter3]
08 Sleepy Lake Tire Swing

Nathan Bowles
Silent Barn
Brooklyn, NY

Exclusive download hosted at
Recorded and produced by Eric PH

Soundboard (engineer: Mike) + AKG C480B/CK61 (FOB, PAS) > Roland R-26 > 2xWAV(24/48) > Adobe Audition CC (align, mixdown) > Audacity 2.0.5 (amplify, fades, downsample, dither, tracking, tagging) > FLAC (level 8)

Tracks [45:13]
01. Sleepy Lake Bike Club
02. [banter/tuning]
03. Jonah/Poor Liza Jane
04. [banter/tuning]
05. Sleepy Lake Tire Swing
06. [banter/tuning]
07. Chuckatuck

If you enjoyed this recording, PLEASE SUPPORT Nathan Bowles, visit his website, and buy Nansemond from Paradise of Bachelors.


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