Daniel Lanois’ Acadie, Oh Mercy by Bob Dylan and the Grammy-winning Emmylou Harris LP Red Dirt Girl are just three of the classic recordings featuring the studio wisdom of Canadian producer, engineer and musician Malcolm Burn.
So when it came to work on his third LP Three, singer-songwriter Nathaniel Bellows knew exactly who to contact to man the boards. Especially when you consider the emotional weight of these eight new songs, written over three years starting when his father’s health began to rapidly diminish and degrade—and he continued to write after his father died, last March, the third month of 2019. These songs represent a deep, personal exploration of mourning, grief and stress, with each composition accompanied by segments of a drawing series he’d been creating since his father passed. Having worked on his first two albums, The Old Illusions (2016) and Swan and Wolf (2018), he contacted Burn for help.
“Given the intimate and personal nature of Three, I knew I needed to work with a producer,” Bellows explains. So I sent 6 demos to Malcolm Burn, who has produced, recorded and collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and many more. He enthusiastically wrote me back, and we recorded Three in his home studio in Kingston, NY this past June, in the middle of the pandemic.”
The first single from Three is the album’s opening track “In The Wool,” which, for Bellows stem from a term about the strength of one’s character.
“’In the Wool’ explores–and plays with–the adage, ‘dyed in the wool,’ which refers to a steadfastness in character, quality, or belief,” he tells American Songwriter. “I was interested in questioning this idea as it relates to the possibility of personal change–especially when change is imposed upon us, or arises as a measure of survival. I am interested in the question: Is the person we have always been the person that we are destined–or doomed–to always be?”
For Bellows, the choice of making “In The Wool,” which American Songwriter is proud to premiere today, the opening cut sets the table for Three’s themes on loss and mourning.
“By introducing these notions of the mutable self,” Bellows explains. “‘In the Wool’ establishes one of the main themes in the album, further exploring the role of the child, the son, the sibling, which shifted and slipped as his illness worsened, and now continues to change, as the shape of our family rearranges around his absence.”