Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles “Keys”

Drag City, 2021

Mixed offering from guitarist and multi-instrumentalist.

There’s a stark, parched air to the solemn opener on this lo-fi guitar pickers fest ‘Idumea’ is one of two spiritual covers and bears an uncanny resemblance to the Newton hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ particularly in this stately form as the instruments overlay the medley as if in a procession. The second track ‘Honey Time ‘ is far more upbeat but is still an engaging instrumental duel between stringed instruments by the time ‘Late for the Funeral’ turns up the listener is surprised, but relieved, that there are vocals! This is Appalachian foot-stomping music with no sign of any rhythm section other than the two protagonists giving it some welly.

Dry Rations I & II’ return the listener at various stages to the instrumental, more spiritual (and dare this writer suggest) ambient experimentalism of the opener but this time with hints of the avant-garde as spaces are left between notes and the silence becomes part of the tunes. Very interesting and frankly, the album could have with more like this. ‘Joyride’, is another instrumental but this one could have been thrown together on a porch whilst watching the sunset. Technically adept but not particularly inspiring or interesting in form or content. The second cover ‘I See God’ seems to be a childlike hymnal that sallies forth, does a turn and then shuffles off. Charming but gossamer light.

The closer ‘The I in Silence’ is a similar meditation to ‘Dry Rations’ and is exquisite in its sparsity.

A perplexing listen with some diamonds nestled amongst some fairly mediocre offerings.


About Keith Hargreaves 391 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
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