Gritty whiskey soaked folk.
On approaching his third album, Nathaniel Bellows decided that he wanted to work with a producer for the first time in his music career. Pairing up with Malcolm Burn who has worked with Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Neil Young to name a few, Bellows recorded the intimate ‘Three’ relishing in this new found production direction. The result is an album that is exactly as sparse and gritty as it needs to be.
Central to the album is the acoustic guitar and Nathaniel’s evocative voice. He has a gruff aged strain to his voice that on tracks like ‘Haul Me In’ he suddenly flicks into a vulnerable falsetto with ease. You simply don’t expect it from a voice that sounds riddled with the daily grind. It is a beautiful moment and Bellows knows exactly how to write his music to excavate every drop of emotion from himself.
‘In The Wool’ opens the album in such a self-assured manner, exploring whether we can change our inner core or not and the album continues to delve further into this across the next half hour. Each track is strictly acoustic too. The guitar, the brushed drums and occasional violin as both a bass and a wilting melody keep the album dusty. It feels harsh and weathered but always intimate. When the violin occasionally plucks in ‘If Only’ you feel like you are next to it – and all the tiny guitar string twangs are left in. It feels like a living room performance and the album basks in this vibe.
Whilst most of the rustic soul-baring is largely quite solemn and introspective, there are a couple of tracks that take on a darker brooding tone. ‘I’ve Learned’ relishes in the finger-picked guitars and percussive rustle as Bellows declares ‘I’ve learned there’s more to life than hiding here’. The music then drops away to leave just the gentlest of guitar and Nathaniel commands the space. You can hear the guitar strap leather creaking – its such an evocative moment and the album is full of them.
‘Three’ continues to showcase Nathaniel Bellows as a modern-day crooner. There is a timeless quality to his music and the way he growls and moans over the sparse but brilliantly arranged acoustics captivate you in his storytelling. In a year where lots of us found personal truths and priorities in the world, this album feels like Nathaniel found a lot of his too. His music is all the better for it. Superb.
Recommended track: Haul Me In
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