Guitarist Bill MacKay and banjo player Nathan Bowles promise to take you all over the map with their new duo | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist Bill MacKay and banjo player Nathan Bowles promise to take you all over the map with their new duo



Even if you don’t know their names, you may already have heard Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles. The former is a local guitarist whose versatility has enabled him to conjure late-night streetscapes with poet Dmitry Samarov, make like the Velvet Underground with Circuit des Yeux, and roll with the mercurial jams of folk-rocker Ryley Walker. The latter is a North Carolina-based banjo and percussion player who has put driving rock beats behind singer-songwriters Steve Gunn and Jake Xerxes Fussell, evoked the void with improvisational drone outfit Pelt, and kicked up the sawdust with old-time dance band the Black Twig Pickers. Each has also sustained a solo career. MacKay distills folk-rooted songcraft, swooping slide licks, and psychedelic leads into vivid audio travelogues on his recent LPs for Drag City, the latest being March’s Fountain Fire. Bowles stirs together expansive American Primitive reveries and antic acoustic roots-rock with dashes of minimalist composition and spiritual jazz on his most recent solo LP, last year’s Plainly Mistaken (Paradise of Bachelors). The two men have played together just once, at the 2018 Cropped Out Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and that set went so well that they’re reviving the duo this weekend. The plan is to work up arrangements of material from their respective solo records using various acoustic stringed instruments and percussive devices, then let their improvisational instincts grow things from there. On Friday, MacKay and Bowles play two outdoor sets as part of the Hideout’s Picnics on the Porch series; on Sunday, they appear at the Ravenswood Art Walk.   v

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