Music review: Nathan Bell / Malcolm MacWatt, Glad Café, Glasgow

US singer-songwriter Nathan Bell combines a gruff, soulful voice with mellifluous, layered guitar playing, writes Fiona Shepherd

Nathan Bell / Malcolm MacWatt, Glad Café, Glasgow ****

If you favour deep cuts over big hits, The Fallen Angels Club is the country club for you, showcasing respected Americana musicians in the intimate venues of Glasgow. Iowa-born, Tennessee-raised Nathan Bell is one such cult artist, an inspired guitarist with a droll, dark wit – and some Del Amitri references – which played well in the room (once the drunken hecklers were ejected).

Bell performed with the quiet but firm assurance of a musician who knows he’s in the right place, having returned to music in his fifties after time out working a straight job. By his own reckoning, he has found his voice in later life – a gruff soulful affair – while he cited George Benson and local lad John Martyn (brought up just round the corner from the venue) as touchstone guitarists for his mellifluous, layered, hypnotic playing.

Nathan Bell PIC: Marco BakkerNathan Bell PIC: Marco Bakker
Nathan Bell PIC: Marco Bakker
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“I’m not your average f***ing American,” he declared, offering the pitch black Jim’ll Fix It as evidence. He ranged widely, politically, socially and culturally, from the painterly expression of a song about environmental collapse to a semi-spoken jive about spam email content, from observations gleaned in his years touring the UK to controlled rage and grief for his homeland as articulated in the songs he played from his current album Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn’t Happen Here).

Labelmate Malcolm MacWatt delivered an absorbing support set suffused with Celtic, Americana and psych folk influences. Originally hailing from Moray but with Canadian Inuit heritage, he drew links between the mistreatment of two cultures on The Crofter and the Cherokee (“reservations, relocations”) and paid tribute to the native American women killed, dumped and forgotten in Winnipeg on Red River Woman, but avoided making musical heavy weather of his self-confessed grim subject matter.

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