The seven-song cassette Ellerbee River Blues marks the debut of Durham instrumentalist Nathan Golub, but he's been collecting the skills that shape this set for more than a decade. A longtime sideman in various rock bands and a pedal steel player in John Howie Jr.'s The Rosewood Bluff, Golub steps to the fore here. His experience shines through the exquisite album's versatility, both technically and emotionally.
"Wedding Boots" is a rollick, electrics and acoustic dancing off of one another in a triumphant jig. But the home-recorded "Dunnagan's Loop" drifts through a solemn atmosphere, gentle percussion marking the space between sighing notes and staggering melodies. It's a worried look at a foggy dawn, a bit of anxious introspection set wonderfully to tape. Golub blurs those modes and moods for the album's eight-minute centerpiece, "Poison Quarter." It seems to slink with regret, a thorny electric melody wrapping around itself like vines. During the last third, though, a thin, light guitar line cuts through the underbrush—furtively, then cautiously and, at last, comfortably. It feels like a smile that took too long to form but is welcome, nevertheless.