Nathan

Nathan

BandFolkBluegrass

The genial band of Winnipeg misfits is garnering critical raves. 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.

Biography

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.

Lyrics

Sunset Chaser

Written By: Keri Mctighe

i won’t be here when you call me. you might go crazy thinking i have gone. you might smash open something symbolizing just what you don’t want to think about. think to yourself, maybe she has a new lover. she caved right into a big empty hole. swallowed up a passerby, a brighter whiter salesman smile, a palm shot out to seal the deal, a greasy hand a squeaky wheel. trade you places, i will be the one away. west for miles, sunset chaser. work yourself up into a firey anger, burn a hole into the chesterfield. until finally you peter out, intoxicated hater of the very thought of losing what you never even cared about. always liked a sunset. always takes the spotlight away from what i must look like to you.

I Left My Station

Written By: Keri Mctighe

i regret everything i did. i regret every fib i slid through, sugar sweet to make it go down. through the hallways of grey and tan, flash of red inappropriately emitting signals clearly out of bounds. i left my station. such a dare such a rigid line, sucked me in with a devil’s mind and order slipped out ever so quietly. evidence run for the hills, or rolling will both of our heads go. people like to watch it spill. i regret everything i’ve said. every whisper explodes in my head.

Gasoline

Written By: Keri Mctighe

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, two thousand miles left to go a brand new name, haircut, hell make me a blond if it’ll blend me in. “lovely weather for an april day, i just came through saskatchewan from as south as you can drive before you drop.” said he just planned on passing through, but that he didn’t know he’d crash into tarnation pouring coffee in a lonely old truckstop. down it goes from there on in, i’m a sucker for attention when it revs up to me wheeling like a screech. but by degrees his grip got tight, suspicion turned his knuckles white, had to drive them in my face to find relief. where i found the muster is a mystery best left in apartments found deserted and a semi-trailer theft. where you ended i’ll pick up, onwards to tuktoyaktuk, about as north as you can go before you drop. 

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

Set List

Sunset Chaser
Gasoline
One Spend
Emelina
Discarded Debris
Station
Malana
Measure Me
Jimson Weed
Lock Your Devils Up
Bad Ideas

Typical Set Length: approximately 40 minutes, depending on show, and how many sets