Nathan
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Nathan

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The best kept secret in music

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"Jimson Weed Review"

In Americana circles, there are so many bands that seem to eschew songs and melody in order to play a funereal dirge that they seem to think makes them more ‘real’ than other bands. Thankfully Nathan is not one of those bands. In fact, it has been a long time since I have heard a band reach out and embrace melody and song writing craft in quite such a blatant and exuberant manner. Nathan is all the better band for this. It is as if someone has given the band a country, jazz and blues 101, from which they have hand picked the best characteristics of each genre. Rhythms are relentlessly perky and upbeat while the bass nearly always keeps things moving with a traditional I-V pattern. The female harmony vocals only serve to add to the good time vibe of the record. Highlights include the jazz tinged number ‘Emelina’ and the more trad country tune ‘Stone’. Some songs are of course weaker than others but the sum of the parts more than makes up for any less excellent moments. Instrumentation is interesting across the board encompassing trumpet, banjo and mandolin along with guitar, bass and drums. Ultimately the only criticism I can make of Nathan is that they seem to be incapable of writing a sad song at this time, but there is more than enough misery in other artists music to make up for this ‘deficiency’. Nathan has released one of the more interesting and original albums that I have heard for a long time and there is no better compliment I can pay them than that. - Americana-UK.com


"Appalachian Army of Darkness Interview"

Right from Keri McTighe's sleepy, yet assertive opening two lines of "I won't be here when you call me / you might go crazy thinking I have gone" from the disc's best track "Sunset Chaser," you are transported by Nathan's lead singer and songwriter's captivating storytelling. With it's dark imagery and airy country sounds, one imagines Nathan as natives of the Appalachian region, rather than purveyors of the Portage and Main scene in Winnipeg. McTighe's masterful songwriting is combined with Shelley Marshall's complementary harmonies, Devin Latimer's bass, and Daniel Roy's disciplined drums to create a sound that echoes the likes of Gillian Welch and Oh Susanna, but still defies classification. Add Burke Carroll's pedal steel and dobro and you have one tight band. Nathan's numbers jump just as easily from bluegrass ballads in the Appalachian tradition such as the aformemetioned, "Sunset Chaser" and "Home With Me," to Tim Pan Alley, ragtime and waltz numbers such as "Emelina" and "Lock Your Devils Up." Themes of regret, female empowerment and betrayal, murder and retribution all weave themselves one way or another into the 14 tracks. Jimson Weed is Nathan's debut for Nettwerk, and what a stunning and soulful one it is. With its angelic anthems, accomplished musicianship, and unpredictable musical twists and turns this Jimson Weed, unlike it's medicinal namesake, has few side effects, but like the plant, an overdose should be considered potentially serious and medical intervention sought. (Nettwerk, www.nettwerk.com) 

What draws you to explore dark imagery in your songs?
McTighe: Not so much drawn to darker imagery as being aware of it in the world and trying to not purposefully leave it out of stuff we are writing because we want to be presenting what we are feeling and going through. 

Tell me about learning and playing the Theremin?
They had one at Mother's Music and it was half price at Christmas. We were thinking that some Theremin on this album would be awesome, but no one knew the first thing about how to play it. I spent four days, and actually recorded it at home because it was excruciating to listen to. My poor boyfriend was kicking me out of bed because my whole body was still in convulsions. We had a deadline, so it was a small period of madness.

Tell me about the current music scene in Winnipeg?
When I moved there I knew only four chords and one song. I was so drawn into the community of musicians there that were like, "Oh you know a song? Get up on stage and play" and then you get to brag and it's all downhill from there. It's really inexpensive to live and because we are so isolated, you can't stick to one genre, so everyone just blends into one big morph. 

David McPherson - Exclaim Magazine 2004


"That Sweet Devil's Waltz - Review"

Calgary Sun - August 19, 2004 
by Darryl Sterdan

JIMSON WEED — Nathan

FILE UNDER: Sweethearts of the rodeo. 

LOWDOWN: Some roots acts tie themselves in knots trying to be as nostalgically authentic as possible. Not Nathan. 

That's not a backhanded compliment — just an observation of the way these quirky alt-country popsters carry themselves on their endearing sophomore disc (and major-label debut) Jimson Weed. 

Sure, the strummy acoustic guitars and plucky banjos, the wheezing accordion and haunting pedal steel — not to mention the gentle melodies, girlish vocals and homespun harmonies of Keri McTighe and Shelley Marshall — give these 14 snappy tracks a warm, woodsy, back-porch-at-sunset feel. 

But even at their darkest and most rustically Appalachian, you get the sense that Nathan put honesty and immediacy before verisimilitude. 

Clearly, these tracks aren't meant to serve as museum pieces. 

Otherwise, we wouldn't hear contemporary touches like the rocky stomp of Big Galoot, the howling Theremin of Discarded Debris and the twangy electric guitars throughout this 47-minute disc. 

McTighe's lyrics, however, are the biggest giveaway, poetically mixing the madness and murder of gothic Americana with the creative imagery of modern music. 

"I've got gadgets that mold the things that are old into sleek facsimiles of what was once guaranteed to please," she says, eloquently — if wordily — summing up the situation. 

We would put it this way: It's not that Nathan don't care about where they came from. 

They're just far more interested in where they're going. 

And judging by the strength of Jimson Weed, the sky's the limit.

TELLING SONG TITLE: Lock Your Devils Up.
- Calgary Sun 2004


"Jimson Weed Reviewed"

Jimson weed is a hallucinogen and this album indeed offers a trip through desire and heartache, joy and happiness and doubt and pain via all sorts of internal monologues brought to life and set to music. Some may raise eyebrows at the ‘down home’ vibe, yet all is not what it seems. There’s a poetry and an ache in the keening pedal steel, twanging banjo and old-timey harmonies of these tunes, an ache that hints at deeper themes — a Wicked Witch looming darkly over a seeming romp through Wonderland. Feel for a moment the pain of the woman in Sunset Chaser, who imagines her abandoned lover working himself into a rage with a passion he never showed her. Or consider the notion of trying out all your life’s bad ideas at once because you can’t face the one good thing you’ve had (Bad Ideas). Jimson Weed is rife with these sorts of stories, which reveal themselves more with every listen. Treasure it, live with it and you will be rewarded.

John Kendle
  - Uptown Magazine 2004


"4.5 Star Review!"

Dylan Gibbs

4.5 
 
Canadian quartet Nathan’s newest CD is a haunting and beautiful collection of songs with often surrealistic, sometimes psychedelic lyrics. Like the stream of consciousness “Gasoline” -  “Hands glued to the steering wheel/smack between a ledge straight down and a wall of spruce as thick as thieves/And as sure as a sharp corner comes a jack-knife kind of creepiness, sweeps up and over me/Oh gasoline don’t leak out on me…” to smart, quirky observations like “Big Galoot’s” “Don’t go far for very long, ya big galoot/the air is thick with a terrible want, a glossy lip licked with a slippery guarantee.”
 
Songwriters and vocalists Keri McTighe and Shelley Marshall sound like two Dolly Partons with a little Fleming McWilliams and k.d. lang thrown in for good measure. Multi-instrumentalists Devin Latimer and Daniel Roy help them create a vibe that goes beyond sounding quite like anything else. And the nearest category to file Nathan under would be alt-country, but that’s a term for a genre that for me has always fallen depressingly short. So instead of classifying Jimson Weed as this or that, as it compares to those and the other, I’m thinking about things to do while the CD’s playing.
 
Like a bubble bath. One of those long, Merlot-soaked deals lit by a fire-code defying number of scented candles. Around the time the fourteenth track is over, all of the bubbles should be dead, your satisfaction complete. 
 
Or a road trip, one of the cliché “uses” for an album. The thing is, there is no better album to have in the car at five A.M. when fog is on the ground. I can’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure mountains would heighten the experience greatly.
                
If you’re about to commit suicide, Jimson Weed might change your mind. If you’re having sex, it may turn you into a super-duper lover of epic pleasure-giving capabilities. 
                
All weird accolades aside, Jimson Weed is one of the most expertly crafted albums to come this way in some time. - News-4U.com


"Another smashing review..."

by Dennis Scanlandh
Review date: 2004-08-16

There is a quote on the cover of Nathan's website: "If David Lynch had directed O Brother Where Art Thou, Nathan's music would be the soundtrack." Those are pretty lofty words but quite appropriate. Jimson Weed is the first exposure I have had to this Winnipeg based folk band and it is quite an impressive album. Keri McTighe and Shelley Marshall are the principal songwriters and needed a vehicle to present those songs to the masses. That's where Nathan erupted from. The music has pop elements but the girls twangy voices remind me of female country artists like Kasey Chambers or a happier Lucinda Williams. The arrangements sometimes border on Klezmer with tracks like "Jimson Weed". Some of the songs have a bit of creepy feel to them. It's more in the presentation than the song itself. "Gasoline" has one of the train style rhythms that trudge through all that comes in it's path. I found it hard not to be in a good mood listening to these girls singing. Nathan tries to hit on many different styles of roots music through out the Jimson Weed trip. There are all sorts of different instruments that make their way into the mix as well. Check them out in a city near you.
- MusicEmissions.com


"Calgary Folk Music Festival...Interview"

by M.D. Stewart
 

In Hebrew, Nathan means "giver." In the Old Testament, Nathan is the name of a prophet as well as a son of King David. It can also be a short form of Nathaniel or Jonathan. In this case, Nathan is the collective identity of Keri Metighe (vocals-guitar), Shelley Bilewitch (accordion-guitar-vocals), Devin Latimer (bass) and Daniel Roy (drums-percussion). As band names go, it’s rather vague and non-descriptive ? deliberately so, in fact.

"Every time we picked a name with any connotations, we felt like we had to live up to something," Metighe says on the phone from her home in Winnipeg. This simple, understated moniker gave them the latitude to just be themselves and wander wherever their muses took them.

In 2001, their impressive self-produced indie release Stranger introduced Nathan to the world. On the first listen one is struck by the haunting, beguiling melodies and gorgeous harmonies but, like the impressionistic reflections on a deep, dark pool, there is plenty lurking beneath the placid surface. Over the course of 15 tracks, they gently shift from dark, carnival oompah to breathy, folky ballads to sweeping, expansive pop and old-timey backwoods country. There are the careful, thoughtful arrangements with lots of breathing room and space. There are the rich texture and dynamic provided by the versatile and very capable rhythm section and assorted guest contributors who employ tubas, pianos and pedal steel.

Eventually your ears will key into the lyrics. They’re cryptic, non-narrative, impressionistic and kind of, well, morbid. There are overall themes of blood, violence and young lives cut short that permeate many of these sweet melodies and gorgeous harmonies. Stranger has more layers (and more tears) than a Spanish onion and, even after multiple listens, it continues to yield new discoveries.

Ironically, principal songwriter Metighe sounds cheerful and well-adjusted, not to mention excited about her band’s growing success. If you come expecting The Addams Family sisters you may well be disappointed. She’s evasive when it comes to pinning her muse down, describing her writing style as painterly and her lyrical approach as an attempt to figure out those floating thoughts that hang around your head but haven’t quite formed yet. When shallower audience members offer enthusiastic comparisons to Jewel, she graciously smiles and accepts them as well-intentioned compliments, but the band’s broad and varied influences include Vic Chesnutt, Johnny Cash, Mercury Rev and the Eels. When I mention how much I liked the guitar playing on Stranger, Metighe is modest and self-effacing. "Shelley and I are both self-taught, so we just kind of make stuff up," she says.

Nathan is currently residing on Sarah Mclachlan’s Nettwerk label. Their sophomore release, Jimson Weed (named after the poisonous and hallucinogenic plant), is due for release soon. Undoubtedly, critics will once again struggle to find adequate adjectives and metaphors to describe the width and breadth of their unique sound.
  - Fast Forward Magazine


"The League of Nathan"

By WAYNE ARTHURSON

Rising Winnipeg band is probably inventing a new story about their name right this very minute.

The story behind the naming of Winnipeg’s Nathan is fluid and flexible, changing like the whirling eddies of a raging rapid. But before we pursue that metaphor further, a few things must be explained. First, Nathan is a band, a collection of musicians, not a single person with a one-word stage name, like Hayden. Or Cher. Or Madonna. Or Prince. A band. Remember that. Second, no one in the band is named Nathan. There’s a Keri (McTighe, one of the lead singers and founders), a Shelley (Marshall, also a lead singer and founder), plus a Devin (Latimer, on bass) and a Daniel (Roy, on drums). But no Nathan. So the band name. Please explain. 

Keri McTighe: “Shelley and I, before we met, were both dating this man named Nathan, but we didn’t know he was two-timing us. So we got rid of Nathan, and got together and named the band after him. And Nathan mysteriously disappeared. “Or Nathan is a squeegee kid who jumped off the Osborne Bridge [in Winnipeg],” she adds. “That one I think is true. But I don’t think he died, so it’s not morbid.” And a third one, just for fun? McTighe is affably keen on this game. “We make a different story each time,” she says. “In fact, I’m making them up right now as you ask. So Nathan is the middle name of Shelley’s long-lost grandfather who was lost at sea.” 

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s explain the music. Or at least try to. Nathan songs are slippery things, seducing you with gorgeous harmonies, circus rhythms and waltzes. McTighe’s and Marshall’s voices are clear and sweet to have invited comparisons to Jewel—but only from people who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on. 

“There is a lot of darkness in the world,” McTighe says, “and we give an honest representation of what we’re siphoning through our little brains. We used to be creepier, or at least stranger, musically, than we are now. Earlier, we were pretty creepy and I love all the comments from people who get the underlying darkness. A lot of people don’t and we get the Jewel or something comparisons, and it’s meant as a compliment, but then you know they aren’t listening.” 

Well, somebody’s been paying attention, because Nathan’s 2001 debut disc wowed critics across the country and snagged the band a deal with Nettwerk in North America and EMI in the U.K. and Europe. Their second disc is due out in late August, after the Folk Fest, but the record company was kind enough to allow the band to sell discs at the CD tent. 

“It’s mind-blowing,” McTighe says of the major-label deals, “because we honestly didn’t plan for that at all. We didn’t even try to get on any label. We figured it was pointless—who’d want us? And that’s probably why people like us, because we didn’t go out in search of a deal. We all just love playing music, we just like going onstage and hanging out together. "

“It’s not overwhelming right now,” she continues, “because we’re playing to small crowds, we have a little yet loyal following. But releasing of the album in other countries will be a little bit overwhelming. Yeah, it’s really exciting and that’s the great thing about music is that it’s going to take us somewhere else.” Nathan will be at various sessions throughout Folk Fest weekend but will play their own concert on Sunday afternoon on Stage 4. Make a point of checking them out because not only will they impress you with their musical talents, but they also make their own stage costumes. There’s nothing like playing around with your identity, after all.  - Vue Weekly


Discography

Full Length Releases: Jimson Weed (2004), Stranger (2001)
Compilations: The Grass Is Always Bluer (2004), For The Kids 2 (2004)
Jimson Weed album is receiving radio play on Americana and Public AAA stations

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Winnipeg. No place else other than a prairie city would anyone know what Jimson Weed is. But now you do, because Jimson Weed, Nathan’s sophomore record and inaugural Nettwerk Records release, fairly reeks of it. Not the plant, dude, the city - Canada’s gateway to the prairies, and current home to a flowering of northern musical talent not seen since the heyday of Toronto’s Yorkville in the 60’s. As bandleader Keri McTighe puts it, “Winnipeg is cheap to live in and full of creative people. I think it lets people be weirder, since we’re not in a big competitive marketplace.”

The product of this febrile music scene, Nathan has coalesced around the haunting songwriting and singing talents of Keri McTighe and Shelley Marshall, augmented by Devin Latimer on bass, Daniel Roy on drums, and an assortment of accordions, tubas, pianos and steel guitars that seemingly dropped by for dinner and made themselves useful. A Lethbridge native, Keri had been drawn to the ‘peg’s circle of musicians, eventually hooking up with Christine Fellows to form the acclaimed band Special Fancy in 1995. Meanwhile, Shelley was putting those accordion lessons from childhood to good use with Hugo Torres’s group. It’s perhaps a testament to the petri-dish properties of the Winnipeg music community that an accordionist in a Chilean folk-protest combo (Shelley) would end up rubbing shoulders with experimental popsters like Keri & Christine. “Once you get in the circle here it’s pretty hard not to know everybody” says Keri. Shelley only had a couple of rehearsals under her belt when Special Fancy split up, but she and Keri kept getting together for writing and practicing (or rather for “smoking and drinking lots of wine”, as Keri puts it), and eventually they were able to rope in Keri’s partner Devin on bass to form what would become Nathan in 1999. And then everything just clicked.

Stranger, their cool indie debut of 2001, garnered the band critical raves and festival plays across the country, including the top regional spot in CBC TV’s “Big Break” national talent competition, and a Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Independent Album. Critics stumbled over themselves trying to pin down the band’s appeal: “Completely compelling. Imagine Julie Doiron and the Carter Family jamming with gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks...[but] that isn't quite it” wrote Mote Magazine, echoing reviewers from the Ottawa Citizen, the Georgia Straight, CBC Radio and others who lauded Stranger as one of the top 10 releases of 2001. “I write a fair number of reviews and interviews, and I'm seldom at a loss for words…the best bittersweet pop songs in this part of the world. (Rob Vaarmeyer, New Winnipeg.com).

One can forgive the critics their tongue-tied ness. Nathan songs are slippery things, seducing you with gorgeous harmonies, circus rhythms and waltzes from the rag-and-bone shop of traditional country music, then knocking you sideways with razor-sharp lyrics that come from some dark, other, Tom Waits-ean basement. Stranger’s “Pick Me Up Suzie” might come on with the sing-song cadences of a jump-rope song, but the details poking through your skin on third or forth listen are images of daddy wrapping blankets “on his chewed up daughter”, or images like the angelicized corpse in “Merritte”, whose stab wound holes “sink in like a silver shine coin / with a wish just made”. As Michael Wrycraft put it on CBC Radio’s Bandwidth, "If David Lynch had directed 'O Brother Where Art Thou?, Nathan's music would be the soundtrack".

But even though this kind of stark imagery gets all the press, Keri & Shelley’s songs are ultimately more concerned with disguises of one sort or another - some gleefully assumed, and some worn so long that the wearers are lost inside them. Listening to the new record, Jimson Weed, one is constantly bumping into characters either in search of their motivations, or in search of ways to disguise them - either they’re blindly following “a terrible want [that] whispers right in to the emptiest places under your skin” (“Big Galoot”), or they’re readily eloping with “a suitcase full of all my bad ideas / going to test them out, see what I have been missing all these years” (“Bad Ideas”). The roadways in this record are clogged with people coming and going with their baggage.

And of course, the radio’s on the background to all this, and it’s playing waltz’s, train rhythms, two-beats with reggae accents, with high hook-laden harmonies, and you’re singing along before you know it. Contributing to your seduction is the fact that the band members are clearly having some serious fun doing what they do, as anyone who has seen one of their tribal live shows, replete with home-made stage outfits, will attest. “Shelley and I love to sew”, says Keri simply, as if that’s all you need to know. And perhaps it is.