Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles - Keys


  • £23.99

Keys is, on first blush, a collection of guitar and banjo duets - but from the opening moment, it is clear that Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles' agreed-upon duo is a living organism, growing as it goes. Their trad bonafides are balanced with inquisitive playing that adds surprise as a formal songwriting and arranging tool. Spirited 21st Century folk music made of equal parts bluegrass, classical, country, gospel and improv. 

Bill and Nathan met in 2017, and a year later they were booked as a duo at Louisville, KY music festival Cropped Out. Preparing for the show involved a correspondence exchanging lots of provisional ideas, thoughts and music back and forth from Chicago to Durham, NC, then dashing through the ideas again on the festival grounds an hour before the show. From this seemingly hectic preparation, their playing that night was remarkably serene, a spiritual treatise clothed in the casual and natural manner of the proverbial porch, or in this case, riverside-jam, as the stage literally straddled the edge of the Ohio River. It was a stellar, simpatico first moment that asked for more moments like it. 

When they were ready to begin recording this album, an easy rapport prevailed, allowing them to work through their collected ideas quickly and freely, with the moments of spontaneous decision that can come only with comfort and trust in each other’s presence. Eight of the ten songs on Keys are originals, with the other two, 'Idumea' and 'I See God,' traditional American folk songs. The diversity of song is matched by the instrumentation: in addition to Bill’s guitar and Nathan’s banjo, they add voice, piano, percussion, pump organ, requinto and electric organ to the richness and rusticity, the traditionalism and open space of the compositions. 

Behind the stately figures of opening track ‘Idumea’, a 19th Century southern hymnal played out on their stringed instruments, a low organ drone hums persistently, signalling that this music, while coming from traditional places, is asking more of itself, seeking sparks of inspiration to light the path forward. 


  1. Idumea  
  2. Honey Time  
  3. Late For Your Funeral Again 
  4. Dry Rations II 
  5. Joy Ride 
  6. I See God 
  7. Dry Rations I 
  8. Dowsing 
  9. Truth 
  10. The I in Silence 


  • CD housed in gatefold card sleeve with 5mm spine 




browse collections: 
Traditional/folk music collection 
Americana collection 


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