Posts Tagged ‘Bill MacKay’

Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles – “I See God”

The new collab LP from Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles already hit out string with the instrumental romp “Joy Ride,” but that’s only one shade of their new album. While the last cut loped along on the players pushing each other down a sunny hillside, the new tune, “I See God” explores their more somber side. The song is equally pulling from bluegrass and gospel to form a county square dance closer that’s quiet and contemplative. The song, originally by husband and wife duo E.C. and Orna Ball is given a more choral feel with the two male voices replacing the original give and take between the couple. Though they match E.C.’s sprightly fingerpicking, fleshing the song out a bit with a bit of organ orchestration. Its a tender old time slice of the past that’s given a new life sighing out of the strings of Bowles and MacKay. 2021 has no lack of guitar greats on the way, but this one should be pretty high on the list. Keys is out April 9th from Drag City.

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Ryley Walker – “Rang Dizzy”

Right off the release of his live collaboration with Kikagaku Moyo, Ryley Walker announces a new solo LP and it’s preceded by the heavy-hearted sway of “Rang Dizzy.” The song is hung with a sense of world-weariness that soaks every line that Walker utters. The cut is burnt out on the bleary day to day — recalling the dizzying fall before Walker’s sobriety. The record moves from the post-rock punch of Deafman’s Glance to an elegiac, prog-dipped folk that touches through Buckley and Harper territory, produced by Tortoise’s John McEntire and featuring a cast of excellent collaborators. This may be a solo LP, but its not solitary — Bill MacKay, Ryan Jewell, McEntire, Andrew Scott Young and others form the backbone of the record, pushing this towards Ryley’s best yet. The new LP lands on his own Husky Pants label, marking the first solo record he’s put out on the imprint. Course In Fable arrives April 2nd.




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Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles – “Joy Ride”

Yesterday was a bit nuts and so its only today that I’m getting a chance to absorb this lovely new single from two site favorites — Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles. The song is, as the title makes plain, an absolute joy. The pair tumbles through the most verdant valleys of folk and bluegrass to find a mid point that rambles with a honeyed ease. Bowles’ banjo work is never without a soft touch and a bright countenance and it shines through here playing off of Bill’s guitar runs like two friends tumbling down a hill and working their best to keep momentum without running into one another. It’s no hyperbole to say that within one month of popping the tab on ’21, Drag City has already set themselves up as one’s to keep pace on this year. This song just sets up one more highly anticipated high watermark for them when Keys comes out April 9th.

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Bill MacKay & Katinka Kleijn

After already gracing 2019 with a hushed and humble folk opus, Bill MacKay changes tack and delivers a stunner of an instrumental collaboration with Chicago cellist Katinka Kleijn. Equally inviting and engrossing as Fountain Fire, STIR winds down another woolen path, though one fraught with slightly more experimental inclinations. The pair play off each other’s strengths – MacKay’s guitar bristles and flows here, threading a more technical side of his playing that’s come forward in his work with Ryley Walker in the past. Kleijn, for her part, gives the songs a less soft-focus approach than his previous album, adding layers of unease and prickled anguish through her discordant passages and plucked delivery. The record is reportedly inspired by the Hesse novel Steppenwolf, though that seems to be more of a guide than a milemarker as this one winds by. The story isn’t the focus, but the emotions weigh just the same.

The album is heavy with hope and sadness, emotionally bare and ready to get hurt again. MacKay’s playing is inquisitive one moment and heartbroken the next. Kleijn balances his runs as a well-worn foil. They fade into one another as the dominant voice of the pieces so easily that the focus blurs and bends, giving neither a true supporting role. They are a duo in the truest sense, weaving their sounds like sonic textiles, knotted but never tangled. Perhaps this isn’t for the fans who are looking for MacKay to lull them down the river, but for fans of guitar prowess and instrumental acumen, this is a gem to be sure.




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Bill MacKay + Katinka Kleijn – “Hermine”

Its been a rather banner year for Bill MacKay. The guitarist’s last album landed in February and its one of his most affecting statements to date, which in a catalog of his caliber isn’t any small feat. Now he’s got another LP on the way, this time with Dutch Cellist Katinka Kleijn. The first taste of their upcoming Drag City album is scarred and scratched. McKay’s guitar work is far more fanged than on Fountain Fire but no less vital. The first cut “Hermine” is feral, burnt, hollowed — it’s a much more ferricious side of MacKay than his simmering folk and Kleijn adds a shading and dimension that brings his playing forward in stark relief. Check the video for the first cut above and look out for this one on October 11th.

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Bill MacKay – “Birds of May”

Bill MacKay has been a singular voice in folk for the better part of two decades and a staple of Chicago’s vibrant traditions, though he’s often sounded like he’s been dropped from the UK fresh off a Bert Jansch session. His latest LP, Fountain Fire is one of his strongest to date, a grey-skied folk journey into the heart of humanity. As he embarks on a run of dates, which include some key Hudson Valley hits for those of you’re in my area (Huichicha, Tubby’s, The Half Moon), he’s released a video for the standout track “Birds of May.” The visuals are understated but that lets the music shine through, humble and stately. If you get a chance hop on over to a show – he’s touring with fellow Drag City stabler Mike Donovan, so there’s just that much more incentive.

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