Saturday, September 18, 2010

Larry Nath

Larry Nath

Born and raised in the Pittsburgh region, Larry Nath has been playing around the area for over twenty-five years. After stints in several local bands, he broke out in 1989 as a member of The Mohicans, a blues rock band formed with guitarist Jimmy Adler, and performed regularly at The Decade, Oakland's Mecca of Rock.

The Mohicans broke up in the mid-nineties, and both Nath and Adler have gone on to establish themselves as successful artists. Their partnership still continues on, as the two perform occasionally as an acoustic/electric duo; Adler contributed to Nath's CD "Live It."

Nath’s style has evolved into a blend of blues and roots-based rock and roll. He often plays solo acoustic shows accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica, akin to a Pittsburgh version of John Mellencamp.

His singing/songwriting shows his influences: Sonny Boy Williamson, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Cray and Tom Petty, all musical story tellers.

It's easy to spot their connection in his 2008 Bonedog CD, "Live It." The album is a collection of original music with eight songs penned by Nath and three by local songwriter Mike Sweeney, who has inked tunes for Billy Price, Bobby Wayne, and other Pittsburgh acts.

"Live It" features an Americana blues feeling, with mostly uptempo stuff and a couple of ballads.

One track that especially exhibits the strong song-writing skills of Sweeney and the vocal delivery of Nath is the tongue-in-cheek "The Killer And The King", a tale of a soused Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, headed down to Graceland to deliver a smackdown to the King, Elvis Presley.

"Elvis was kickin' and watching TV, askin' 'who's that out there waving his pistol at me?' The guards at the gate called on the phone; Elvis said 'Tell him to leave me alone.'"

It's good stuff, and he's ably backed by the Bonedog All-Star session players, Brandon Barnes (drums), Jimmy Britton (keyboards), Mighty Lil' Johnson (bass) and Jim Relja (guitar). Jimmy Adler sat in on three tracks and co-wrote two tunes, while Nath plays a tasty harp.

Beside the musical chops, Nath has been a teacher for 12 years. He has a B.S. in Secondary Education English from Duquesne, a Master's degree in English from IUP, and now teaches English, Public Speaking, and Journalism at Indiana Area Senior High School.

He uses his teaching background to further the cause. During the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, he ran a workshop between sets called "Turn Around and Testify."

Nath dissects the blues through the basic "call and response" format, used by many bluesmen ranging from Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters to Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He emphasizes the blues' call to "testify" to the joys and sorrows of life. Dunno that the old blues crowd overly intellectualized their genre, but hey...

You have to work to catch Nath in action; beside fests like the PBF and the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival, his appearances are way too few in local clubs. He performs now generally as a solo artist, and if you see him booked, circle the date. It's a show you'll not want to miss.

Larry Nath - "Love Fool" live

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