12 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Georgia-based singer/songwriter Nathan Bell follows up his fine 2011 album Black Crow Blue with an even stronger collection of tunes that address hard times in modern America. Blood Like a River is a guitar/vocal affair, tightly aiming its spotlight on its material. Bell excels at portraiture in his lyrics, offering nuanced glimpses at both noble and evil characters in tight, vivid verses. His singing style veers from conversational tones into keening held notes that heighten the impact of his words. Whether he’s taking a long view at one man’s life (“The Snowman”) or juxtaposing the victims and predators in today’s economy (“Turn Out the Lights”), his touch is deft, unsparing, and deeply moral. “Names”—a series of veterans' stories rendered in folk-ballad form—stands out for its humanity and simmering outrage. “Samadhi” captures a feeling of timeless, almost-mystical longing, while “Fathers and Mothers” addresses the gay-marriage debate with quiet, clear-eyed compassion. The album closes with the sweepingly bleak “All but Gone”—yet somehow, the album’s collective honesty has an uplifting effect.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Georgia-based singer/songwriter Nathan Bell follows up his fine 2011 album Black Crow Blue with an even stronger collection of tunes that address hard times in modern America. Blood Like a River is a guitar/vocal affair, tightly aiming its spotlight on its material. Bell excels at portraiture in his lyrics, offering nuanced glimpses at both noble and evil characters in tight, vivid verses. His singing style veers from conversational tones into keening held notes that heighten the impact of his words. Whether he’s taking a long view at one man’s life (“The Snowman”) or juxtaposing the victims and predators in today’s economy (“Turn Out the Lights”), his touch is deft, unsparing, and deeply moral. “Names”—a series of veterans' stories rendered in folk-ballad form—stands out for its humanity and simmering outrage. “Samadhi” captures a feeling of timeless, almost-mystical longing, while “Fathers and Mothers” addresses the gay-marriage debate with quiet, clear-eyed compassion. The album closes with the sweepingly bleak “All but Gone”—yet somehow, the album’s collective honesty has an uplifting effect.

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