Album Review | Angry Stick | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5
Nathan Bell, freelance writer, Guitar teacher and singer songwriter, has already released what he describes as three albums about being a working class American. Nathan calls these his Family Man albums. Philosophical, after a health scare that he himself belittles, Nathan realised he was surrounded by love and after writing about others, found himself writing about his love and his family. What he describes as the bones that keep us upright and strong. Almost apologetically he found he’d put together another Family Man album. Alongside killer songs, Nathan has a perfect singer songwriter voice, shaped by experience and life, like a classic chair, it is worn smooth by use, love and familiarity. It has timbre and a bit of crackle like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark or Robert Fisher of The Willard Conspiracy, while it lopes effortlessly and swings, syllables bouncing like a strummed baritone guitar. Songs like “Would be a Blackbird”, written for Bell’s wife Leslie and “Loves Bones and Stars, Love’s Bones and Stars”, with its sublime guitar part, are folk anthems in the making, shot through with sharply observations and burnished till they are metaphors. “A Day like This” written for a friend’s grandchild became also a letter to Nathan’s own children. Like a Country I Ching the song is packed with images, bucket list suggestions and advice. This is a song where repeated listens turn up gem after gem. “Fragile” is a rumination and an atheists prayer. Read as a words or heard as a song, the writing is spot on and the delivery, over some fine guitar is poetic. Metal with one of the best vocals on the album, especially when it’s alongside Annie Mosher’s harmony, is an old man’s reflection on his place in it all. It’s another set of perfectly balanced, paired back lines, as much poetry as song, describing perfectly the romanticism in time past and time passing. “Whisky You Win” Nathan feels, might be his best ever Country song. In the hands of a big hat wearing lesser talent, the song might be as over ripe as the title suggests, but with Bell’s timing, delivery and sublime lyrics it is an anthem of heartfelt truisms. World weary and throwing stones at himself this is wounded, burned Bell at his most Townes Van Zandt. “My Kid” is more sharp writing, deep thinking on religion and philosophy wrapped in a father’s pride, tempered with a little of James McMurtry’s fire. “To Here from There” is a reminder of Nathan’s mastery of the acoustic, chiming and nuanced alongside another top vocal and lyric. “Gold Wedding Ring” is another stone cold Country classic, a revisit of an earlier recording and a duet with Annie Mosher channelling Dolly herself. “Faulkner and Four Roses”, featuring Leslie Bell on second vocal, is a bitter sweet ode to long life and the ability of whisky to dull the pain and features Leslie Bell on second vocal. Bravely Nathan closes the album by lifting the lid on his process, revealing a stripped back, rawer vocal and guitar “Loves Bones and Stars” and an uplifting duet version of “A Day Like This”. With artful touches of Cello, Harmonica and some perfect second vocalists to offset Nathan’s wonderful guitar, vocals and songs this is an album embarrassingly stuffed with classics.