Nathan Bell – Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth

Album Review | Angry Stick | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

You wait, a day, for a fine album by a sharp, finger picking, country tinged singer songwriter then, like buses, two come along at the same time. Nathan has released the stunning studio album Loves Bones and Stars, Love’s Bones and Stars and this a live album Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth Live in Wales. Recorded at a bijou Welsh venue Cwtch Coffee House, this is Nathan Bell paired back to the essential and in an environment where he sounds entirely at home. “Goodbye Brushy Mountain”, a brooding prison song, crackles with pent up energy live. Nathan’s voice inhabits the song’s convict character completely and the guitar part has one of those motifs I could listen to all night, where Bell’s mastery of the instrument is clear and the only thing in question is how many hands he has. If you needed to be told, it’s there on the sleeve ‘no overdubs autotunes or performance alterations were made to this recording’. This is one man, his bruised troubadour voice, harmonica, two hands and one guitar beautifully recorded. What others might see as limitations, are challenges and chances to shine as Nathan Bell turns in a stellar performances to an appreciative audience. In spite of everyone one and everything is the English translation of the title. There is I think a certain Journeyman pride on show here as Bell travels between back road gigs and larger venues, delivering the goods. “American Gun” is another metaphor filled anthem delivered over a resonant guitar hook, laying waste to macho heroes. “MIA” is an evocative song about those people who are lost after serving. Some fine singer songwriter harmonica too. There is a great, relaxed honest live atmosphere as Nathan talks song origins, between guitar flourishes, on tracks like the bluesy “We All Get Gone”. “Whiskey You Win” is a killer country song, skilled writing and a heartfelt performance, delivering that sense of burned out resignation that Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark do so well. Superb album tracks like “A Day like This” and “From There to Here” work perfectly as languidly swinging guitar and voice, with every nuance of both sparkling in the space around the performance. “North Georgia Blues” is a fleet fingered closer, a Country Blues that connects current troubles with historic misery, a reminder that somethings never change. The applause and calls for more are genuine and heartfelt. Final word goes to gig compare, whose unedited intro of “and here we have Nathan Bell f..king hell” closes the album. Given the quality of the album this feels like an honest assessment not gratuitous profanity or hollow praise, high recommendation indeed.