MP3 Nathan Bell - Black Crow Blue
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14 MP3 Songs in this album (54:19) !
Related styles: Folk: Alternative Folk, Country: Americana, Type: Acoustic
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"Bell lives in a world of less thans, left behinds, lost souls and not enoughs and isnât afraid to rail against the scraps that are supposed to suffice. Get ready to be inspired. "
- The Yummy List (Nov 03, 2009)
Liner Notes by Glen Hirshberg
âWe become the tales we tell,â Nathan Bell sings on âMe and Larry Brown,â a gorgeous early track on Black Crow Blue, which collects tracks from Bellâs absurdly ambitious Meacham Project. Iâve staked my life on that being true. Hereâs a tale Iâve been telling lately:
More than twenty years agoâI donât remember how or whereâI stumbled across a couple of beautifully etched, hard-edged, luminous records by an Iowa duo called Bell and Shore. The songs on those records have become part of the permanent soundtrack to my life. âPretty Plains Girlâ was the first and sweetest ghost story I sang to my son (âyoung boy, young boy, youâll soon be mourned/if you chase that girl through the I-wa cornâ¦â). I can barely remember a single scene from all those deadly serious, well-intentioned post-Vietnam movies of the late â70s and early â80s, but I am still haunted by the bemused, resilient DJ/veteran on âRadio V-i-e-t-n-a-m.â Iâve never stayed at the âEl Ranko Motel.â But I know who has.
Last year, stuck yet again in the middle of a novel about the Federal Writersâ Project called The Book of Bunk I was increasingly sure I would never finish, I gave up on the scene I was failing to compose and started Googling. Iâd hunted for news of Nathan Bell many times before. But he seemed to have vanished.
Suddenly, that day, there he was. Andâafter fifteen years of inactivity, or at least public inactivity--he was writing up a storm. He had a website, even, and a fan group: the Cult of 8. I wrote and told him to make it 9. A month or so later, he wrote back and asked if I was the Glen Hirshberg who wrote The Snowmanâs Children. Not long after that, he sent me a song.
My art has given me many gifts: a lifetime of stories; a series of impossible dreams; the peace that comes with knowing you have to find peace yourself; the knowledge that every now and then, through circumstances that probably have only a bit to do with what Iâve written, my work has moved somebody, made someoneâs days better. Iâm not sure any of the above means as much to me as Nathan Bellâs song, âThe Snowman.â It was the first instance I know of when my work apparently helped trigger a truly magnificent piece of art from someone else.
Nathan Bell has always been a passionate, fiery, smart, funny, tuneful, devastating song and lyric writer. But the Meacham project, which he announced to the Cult of 8 a while back, struck me as about as sane an undertaking as my unfinished, hopeless novel. Thereâs been lots of writing about music. Thereâs lots of music about writing. Thereâve been plenty of songs about or inspired by books. But lyrics are different than poetry or proseânot better, not worse, just an entirely different artâand songs about writing have to dance through all sorts of traps; the too-many-words trap; the fawning fan letter; the potted plot summary; the my-whiskey-with-Gatsby.
But as a songwriterâ¦well, Nathan Bell can dance. These tracks arenât summaries of poems and stories and novels. Sometimes, I suspect, they contain only the faintest glimmers of the art that inspired them. The Larry Brown in âMe and Larryâ is a deftly cross-hatched sketch of a man a songwriter knew, who happened to write Larry Brownâs stories. The dark traveler working his way through the eerie, sly âThe Striker,â inspired by Marvin (father of Nathan) Bellâs âDead Man Poems,â is a wicked and very contemporary variation on an American trickster archetype as old or older than the country itself. The American Crow in âAmerican Crowâ and âCrow in Oklahomaâârestless, unpredictable, self-destructive, tough, proud, mythic, staring at a world where thereâs ânowhere left for the light to goââcertainly sounds deeply rooted in Sebastian Mathewsâ literary creation. But he also sounds like a Nathan Bell character, fresh from a pitstop at the El Ranko on his way to vanishing into the I-wa corn. Iâm glad to have met him. And I canât wait to seek out Mathewsâ original.
Thereâs a song inspired by my new book, too. The one I was sure Iâd never finish, and finished a few months ago, after 13 grueling years. Iâm not sure I even recognize any element of my novel in âBlack Crow Blue.â Except maybe an openness to experience, a ghostly trace of youthful optimism grown old but never tired, at least not yet (âHave you ever seen a sky so wide/You can fit the whole world inside/I haveâ), a sense of fatalism tempered by the determination to go not just on but through, a willingness to love (âHave you ever been afraid to touch/âSomeone that you loved too much/I haveâ).
Best and most important of all, these are songs. The lines quoted above seem memorable to me, but they stick out not because (or not only because) theyâre artful lines but because theyâre pegged to bits of rhythm or brambled twists of melody that pull off that most elusive of songwriterâs tricks: they sound familiar, even ancient, and also brand new. The sense of loss in âMe and Larry Brownâ comes wafting out of that gentle, insistent guitar before Nathan Bell even opens his mouth. âThe Strikerâ could be a Woody Guthrie talking blues, but the accent falls more heavily on the blues, the quiet but relentless chigger of the rhythm, the exhausted murmur of the vocal. Youâll appreciate the words. But youâll remember the music.
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