What a year it’s been for Nathan Bell.
He ended 2016 on a high after featuring as one of the Best Male Performers of the Year in the Readers’ Poll at the influential AmericanaUK website.
In February he flew in for a double bill appearance with James McMurtry at Celtic Connections, and stunned a capacity crowd into hushed silence.
AmericanaUK, reviewer Paul Kerr said: “It was a raucous crowd that faced Bell when he bounced onto the stage but within minutes he had them transfixed with barely a murmur to be heard, his confident delivery and wry humour demanding attention.
“…Bell is the real deal - do yourself a favour and catch this true American troubadour. You won’t be disappointed.”
Nathan then released a new album “Love>Fear (48 hours in traitorland) - a stark, acoustic soundtrack for the times we are living in - that won him more attention on both sides of the Atlantic. One of the first reviews to appear came from Tom Franks at Folkwords, who said: “It’s going to be huge,” and just at that, it appeared at the Number 3 slot on the Euro Americana Chart.
He toured the UK again in November. Just look at the flyer here and see what promoters had to say about that…
And, now, to round things off in prefect fashion, it has just been announced that he has been voted Best Male Artist in the 2017 Readers’ Poll at Americana UK.
On learning about the result, Nathan said: “As soon as I step on stage in your poetic and musical country I feel like I’ve got family on the other side of the lights. I’m grateful for every one of you. It makes the work worth doing. Thank you.”
Love>Fear (48 hours in traitorland) now available for purchase in the United States
Tennessee songwriter Nathan Bell's fourth critically acclaimed album,Love>Fear (48 hours in traitorland), is now available in the United States.
Stream the album in its entirety at American Standard Time and find out why this collection of songs has cemented Bell's position as one of America's most literate and accomplished songwriters.
"Nathan Bell has collected the songs in this cycle to distance you from your own perspective, to help you let it go. You can’t argue with a well written song, much less with a character in dire straits. You can play politics, root for your team in the comfort of your home, but as soon as you experience the life of another person, it will change yours. Bell’s empathy isn’t for a lack of clarity about current events (in fact he’s hyper-aware), it’s a protest against the divide and conquer of American communities for capital gain. He doesn’t need to name the oppressor, or the solution; his somber, sober tales name your neighbors, your acquaintances, your family, your generation, who have always been the only ones you can turn to."
American Standard Time
June 30, 2017
Music has always served as the great communicator. Whether voices are raised in protest or unequaled joy, there is a sense that both difficult and inspiring ideas can pass freely through music without losing their desired perspectives. From '60s folk to late '80s/early '90s hip-hop, various strains of music have echoed with the struggles and victories of people who raised their voices just a little bit louder than the person next to them. And in our current climate of political and social unrest, those voices need to be louder than ever—and that's where Iowa-born/Chattanooga-based singer-songwriter Nathan Bell comes in.
At 57, his persuasive voice is a combination of hardened experience and weary acknowledgment, a scathing thing that pierces the foolishness and blind obedience that he sees as inherent to the current state of American politics. He's quite free with his vicious indictments of Donald Trump's presidency, but he possesses a wit and carefree swagger that keep his sentiments from feeling labored or false. His songs feel stripped of their age, aching rhythms built from a specific political venom and emotional resonance.
He's currently gearing up for the release of his new record, "LOVE>FEAR (48 Hours in Traitorland)," due out June 30 via Stone Barn Records. Composed of a devastating Americana-hued honesty, the record roars with the fury of a man trying to shake sense into those without an awareness of their surroundings. You can hear this frustration threaded throughout his latest single, "Traitorland (Rules for Living In)," and he spares no public official in his condemnation of what he sees as the dismantling of the fundamental ideals upon which our government is based.
Using just a guitar and his world-worn voice, Bell builds a simple but powerful momentum that acts as our entry point into a stark and shadowy landscape of Americana gone dark. He bends the strings and twists a series of folk-oriented melodies to evoke the taut nervousness that he feels spreading out over the country. This song exposes his own anxiety and offers a wry, forceful commentary on the consequences of ineptitude and inexperience.
Joshua Pickard- The Local
“Right before we did the deed and elected an oligarch, PT Barnum-style scam artist, I started thinking it was time to collect some of the political songs I’d written over the years, and combine them with some of the new ones I’d been working on," Bell says. "I’ve always been resistant to slogans and catchphrases, so Traitorland is more an album of pointed stories about people affected by the callousness of the wealthy and the power brokers. Nowadays, they’re so disconnected from the working class—they’re even more cruel than Carnegie was. Paul Ryan—I don’t know how he sleeps at night. I don’t know how a man like Steve Bannon is allowed to spend a day near whoever’s in power. My family’s half Jewish, and I look at Bannon and think, ‘Great, we’re either gonna have to run or fight again.’ So the album comes from that.”
“There are people all around us who believe differently than we do,” Bell says. “Good people. And in the basics of their daily life, the political sign in their yard is no reflection on who they are to their neighbors. Over the last few years, we’ve forgotten this, and a certain level of humanity has disappeared. To me, the whole point of liberal politics is, we let people in even if they’ve made a mistake. I was out walking my dogs a few weeks ago, and I ran into one of my neighbors down the street, and she says, ‘Hey, I voted for Trump, and I'm scared shitless. Did you vote for Trump?’ Now that's a golden opportunity. I said, ‘No, I didn't vote for him. He scares the hell out of me, and he's got a Nazi working with him.’ So we stood there and talked for awhile, and I find out she's a fiscal conservative, she's a little bit socially conservative, but like a lot of people in the South, she's got six gay cousins she likes just fine. So we had a conversation, which is what we're supposed to do. Let the other side be exclusive, keep people out, and pretend everyone should be divided up into groups; at the end of the day, no matter how hard we fight, even if it means physical dissent, when the war is over, people are still people. It's how you avoid the Hutus and the Tutsis warring back and forth, chopping each other up with machetes. If someone comes to you and says, 'Look, I shouldn't have voted for assholes the last 12 years. How do we put our country back together and make sure everybody's protected?' then you've got to accept that. It's hard, but you've gotta look some assholes in the eye and accept that maybe they've changed. I can't forgive a fucking Nazi, I think—until I meet some guy who was a skinhead for 25 years, and spends the rest of his life working in the AIDS ward trying to atone for it. There's always some reason for you to doubt your certainty.”
Love > Fear captures the stark, unadorned directness of Bell’s solo acoustic performances. Many of the tracks were recorded live-in-the studio in front of a small audience. There’s no doubling and almost no overdubs—just a man with a harp around his neck and a guitar in his weathered hands, singing and playing his heart out. At times, the sound is earthy and optimistic, a silver glimmer breaking through the clouds above an Appalachian peak; other times, it’s sparse, haunting and distant, a warning flare erupting across the dusk. But no matter the track, it’s unvarnished and immediate, the songs given room to shine in all their expertly constructed glory, shot through with the grace & grit of the finest American prose.
“I felt like this record was my chance to use what I’ve been doing for a long time, what I feel most comfortable doing, and that’s telling stories,” Bell says, “giving people a chance to use their knowledge of others to feel hopeful. Sure, there’s some sad shit on there, but ultimately it’s a hopeful record. My big goal in life is to make it so much better to love people that, after a while, hating people seems like a lot of work. You only need one commandment, right? If you love everybody, then all the other commandments are unnecessary. I'm not a religious man at all. As a matter of fact, I'm completely anti-religion. But if I could give everybody just one commandment, it would be, love each other."
There’s a reliability to a new album from Nathan Bell - it will always cut deep and hard, and ‘Love > Fear’ (48 hours in traitorland)’ delivers as expected. The man writes songs designed to make their mark and he never fails.
Folkwords UK- 2017
Nathan Bell is one of the best songwriters you've never heard of. His songs tell you something about yourself that you didn't know was in you.
-Americana Music Show Best of 2016
Best Of 2016 - AmericanaUK
There’s an incredible amount of eloquence in his ‘plain’ poetry’, along with truth that burns like a welding torch, pounds like a hammer and beats with the resilience of the human heart.
-No Depression Magazine