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Nathan Bowles freaked the bluegrass classic “Ruby”

From the banjo king’s new album, Plainly Mistaken.

October 04, 2018

“Ruby” was always a pretty deranged song — this video of the legendary Osborne Brothers playing it live in the ’70s is pure sweaty-upper-lip insanity. “The melody and lyrics weren’t what initially grabbed me,” says Nathan Bowles, the North Carolina musician and singer about that particular interpretation. “It was the glee apparent in the group’s performance and their dedication to the better qualities of that era of bluegrass: maniacal speed balanced by reckless abandon.”


Bowles’s own music, as I think of it, is usually more patient and sweet — “Moonshine is the Sunshine,” for example, from his 2016 album, has way more levelheadedness than a song title like that might give you. But the man has lost it here. Equal parts inspired by the 1968 Silver Apples version, Bowles’s “Ruby” is a much-appreciated freakfest, his typically demure singing voice warbling wildly. “I’m glad we got this to tape,” Bowles says, “in a way that honors a sort of reconciliation of those two versions’ approaches: a white-knuckle grin on one end, the smoldering innards of an oversized train-station clock on the other.”

Plainly Mistaken comes out Friday, October 5 on the always-venerable Paradise of Bachelors. Bowles will play Cropped Out in Louisville that night, with a proper with his trio unfolding in November.

Tour Dates:

Friday, October 5th - Cropped Out (Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles duo), Louisville KY

Saturday, October 20th - Don’t Be Mean To People ACLU Benefit (Joe Westerlund & Nathan Bowles duo), Durham NC


Thursday, November 1st - The Cave (w/ David Nance Group), Chapel Hill NC
Tuesday, November 6th - Rhizome, Washington DC
Wednesday, November 7th - Jerry's on Front, Philadelphia PA
Thursday, November 8th - Union Pool (w/ Steve Gunn & Little Black Egg), Brooklyn NY
Friday, November 9th - State House (w/ Weeping Bong Band), New Haven CT
Saturday, November 10th - Root Cellar (2-day Residency), Greenfield MA
Sunday, November 11th - Root Cellar (2-day Residency), Greenfield MA
Wednesday, November 14th - AMW, Pittsburgh PA
Thursday, November 15th - Dirty Dungarees, Columbus OH
Friday, November 16th - Elk City Records (w/ the Modock Rounders), Charleston WV

Nathan Bowles freaked the bluegrass classic “Ruby”