An acclaimed accompanist, for Steve Gunn and Michael Chapman, and integral component of Black Twig Pickers and Pelt, Nathan Bowles – banjoist, percussionist and improviser – drifts between seeming polarities. Plainly Mistaken’s strength lies in the ease with which he unites them.
Joined by drummer Rex McMurry, and bassist Casey Toll, he creates a sequence of contrasting pieces arising both from his string-band and drone excursions. Beginning with ‘Now If You Remember’, and a rare vocal; this child’s poem, originally sung by Julie Tippetts, plaintive, repetitive, with an air of melancholy, gives a first indication of how this music will transfix.
It’s followed by the thrilling ten minutes of ‘The Road Reversed’; disciplined drumming holding the listener suspended, allowing the banjo, melodica, piano, and Toll’s remarkable bowing, both the space and anchoring to explore.
Placing the album’s apparent centre-piece so early suggests recklessness but there’s much more. Ernie Carpenter’s ‘Elk River Blues’, previously essayed solo, is revisited in surprisingly uplifting mode, while a rousing take of Cousin Emmy’s ‘Ruby’, based on Silver Apples 1968 reading, skitters its way into the more out-there ‘In Kind I’. Riveting, brave music: to ignore would indeed be Plainly Mistaken.