Nathaniel Saunders

Bimini Nights

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89-year-old Nathaniel Saunders has been playing and singing on the small Bahamian island of Bimini since the late '20s. Saunders is something of a legendary figure on Bimini; he apparently served as a guide to Ernest Hemingway during the latter's fishing excursions and is said to have contributed significant content to Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. His debut album is a strange and strangely charming collection of original songs, on which Saunders is accompanied by a crew of local musicians and his own tenor banjo. His barely comprehensible singing is baffling at first, but by about two-thirds of the way through the album you start being able to make out the words, and songs like "Wasp Bite Obie" and "Run Daryl Run" reveal themselves as amusing slices of local life and custom; "Old Uncle Edward" may be a denunciation of Edward Seaga, but it 's not possible to really know for sure. The rhythms are recognizably Caribbean, but far closer to the jumpy up-up-up of soca than the loping relaxation of reggae; the sound is of field-recording quality, making it difficult to hear what the various instruments are doing. Recommended as a pleasurable curiosity. (The DVD version includes studio footage, an interview with Saunders, photos, and Bahamian recipes.)

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