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 covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.