Nathan Bowles, as a member of Black Twig Pickers and having played with the likes of Jack Rose, is firmly steeped in Appalachian folk and other folk traditions. He’s also played with more out-there acts like Pelt and Pigeons. But, A Bottle, A Buckeye, his first solo record, isn’t quite like anything he’s done before. It seems, as a collection of solo banjo pieces, to align with his folk work, but there’s a sense of atmosphere that feels strange and alien and wholly arresting here.
He fires out of the gate will the rolling slap of “Charlie’s Pontoon” and “Cindy”, snapping notes off his 5-string, hollow-back banjo with speed and precision, but it’s when things get more spacious, on the moodier “Beans” or the wandering, pastoral haze of “Uttararama” that the album really takes hold. With just one instrument and no overdubs, Nathan Bowles manages to do an awful lot, showing both the sweet melodies of these folk compositions and still mixing them with a hint of space and sound experimentation. This record feels fresh enough to be a debut, but Bowles is seasoned enough to make it sound mature and, at its best, even timeless.