Nat Myers – The Nation Blues


“By no means ever was no distinction ‘tween you and I, oh.”

This text was printed in Dwelling Blues journal – Breaking Out column. Difficulty # 288• Vol. 55, #1. January 2024

By Frank Matheis

man playing guitar
Photograph by Tyler Zwiep, Could 2022 in Nashville

Dr. John, the late, nice New Orleans king of swamp funk, was a vibrant “phrase inventor” who might need referred to Nat Myers as “hip tang.” That esoteric nomer suits the big-splash country-blues newcomer completely. It could be arduous to provide you with an appropriate odd descriptive as a result of there’s nothing odd concerning the youngblood.

Myers, an excellent signal for creation, transcends all stereotypes and kicks out some fiery deep-roots blues certain to shake up conventions. The bluesman has acquired effuse crucial approval for his debut acoustic blues album Yellow Peril. The US Nationwide Public Radio, for instance, named him as one in every of their “Favourite Artists of 2023.” LB praised the album within the Sept. 2023 problem. The act of “breaking out” was seemingly a snap for the biracial Korean American singer/songwriter from Villa Hills in Kent County, Kentucky, noticeable by his distinct regional drawl. He additionally sings with distinctly Southern and black linguistic articulation. So shut are his adoptions of the unique Thirties deep nation blues singing type that even seasoned listeners would assume him to be some long-established African American bluesman.

His debut Yellow Peril, an album filled with poetic imagery, was produced by none aside from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, an affiliation that has absolutely not harm the advertising and marketing success of the album. Myers made a number of journeys all the way down to Nashville to co-write and report songs with Auerbach, famed songwriter Pat McLaughlin, and the famed Alvin Youngblood Hart. The end result was a smash. By now, a case may be made that Myers is without doubt one of the new acoustic, deep-roots sensations like Jerron Paxton, Jontavious Willis, Hubbie Jenkins and Buffalo Nichols.

man sitting outside playing guitar
Photograph by Andres Tabares, September 2023 in East Nashville

Myers is an outstanding fingerstyle guitar picker and polished singer/songwriter who has one thing to say. As in all good blues, he sounds historic, if generally spinoff, however he provides his personal mark on the style. There are a number of different Asian American blues musicians, however few ascended as shortly and profoundly as Myers.

The blues has at all times had a component of socio-critical lyrical statements, a type of protest usually related to the cataclysmic oppression of Black Individuals within the post-slavery, Jim Crow period of segregation, exploitation, and violence. Right here we have now a Korean American making use of the style to the plight of Asian Individuals right now, who’ve been blamed for the Covid pandemic and subjected to racist assaults, threatened, and harassed on the streets and subways. Sadly, many tons of of instances have been reported since 2020, together with homicide. On the title observe of his debut album, Yellow Peril, he laments, “In all places I been, any person bein’ abused…” Until racialism is utilized, these protest blues are a most correct equivalency to that of African Individuals as Myers speaks out about modern-day injustices. The time period “Yellow Peril” is an outdated racist metaphor typically utilized to Asian immigrants who allegedly threaten Western values, implying that they’re to be feared for his or her alleged villainy and malevolence. Consider the Chinese language Exclusion Acts of 1882 and 1924.

The artist studied poetry on the New Faculty in New York Metropolis, the place he labored odd jobs to make ends meet, a muse that’s evident in his poignant lyrics. He said, “It dawned on me that the true American epics had been being advised by these itinerant musicians from the ‘30s and ‘40s, even earlier than recorded sound. That’s after I did my deep dive into the blues, so I may write my very own epic.” Finally he began busking on avenue corners and in subway stations, taking part in a number of covers and much more originals.

man in front of RV
Photograph by Tyler Zwiep, Could 2022 in Nashville2

He advised:

“I’ve been taking part in since I used to be about 13 years outdated. I’m 33 now, so greater than half my life I’ve been taking part in guitar. When it comes to performing, it’s been about seven or eight years. I obtained began late, in comparison with quite a lot of of us. I’m a half breed. My mother was born over in Pusan, Korea, in ’52, and my dad is a typical Western European. He’s from in all places when it comes to background. I give my dad quite a lot of credit score for displaying me all kinds of music. We used to journey lots. He took me out West after I was actual younger. I bear in mind listening to songs like Carl Martin’s old-time blues after I was younger and people songs struck me actual deeply on the time, but it surely took a very long time for me to play blues because the factor that I wished to do with music. I wished to put in writing poetry. I used to be solely ever serious about studying the finger strategy of nation blues gamers. I minimize my enamel up in New York Metropolis for some time. I wound up tramping a bit. I finally began busking and I obtained actually shut with the oldsters up in Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theater.

Just lately I’ve been capable of get on the street with of us like G. Love and JJ Gray and Mofro and Willie Watson. I’m capable of see the place the outdated nation blues may be taken. Till I used to be opening for G. this previous yr, I used to be type of shy – I didn’t have an excessive amount of to say. Just lately, I’ve come out of my shell to have the ability to discuss concerning the songs I really like, with the ability to play my horrible takes on them. I really like presenting of us like Tom McClennan, Sonny Boy and even Memphis Minnie –to individuals who actually don’t know heads or tails about these artists who I actually love – in order that’s been an awesome privilege. I talked a bit bit with Dom Flemons about the way you stroll the road between educating and displaying folks how cool nation blues is. I’m an advocate for the nation blues. It’s one of the best stuff to play. It actually units one’s thoughts down.

In reference to Yellow Peril, I believe there are clear parallels between the flip of the 20th Century anti-immigration legal guidelines that significantly focused the Chinese language, however Asians specifically – all the way in which up till the ‘60s. I believe quite a lot of the perpetuations which are occurring now obtained the green-light once you had politicians from the highest turning geopolitical details into hateful demagoguery and utilizing it to their political benefit. Asian of us are additionally entitled to the American expertise with out being victimized by blatant violence that has been inflicted upon them in locations like New York or San Francisco… The violence and the rhetoric maintain getting ratcheted up, and I believe the violence can also be going to trickle down. Fascinated about Yellow Peril, I nonetheless ponder how impactful a track may be or if a track can match an answer to this bigger battle that quite a lot of Asian of us are going via proper now, feeling a deep sense of concern that random violence can hit their very own household. It makes me indignant deep down.

man playing guitar
Photograph by Tyler Zwiep, Could 2022 in Nashville3

I’m capable of make a residing as a musician. It feels bizarre to say and makes me take into consideration Furry Lewis’s Casey Jones – “I used to be a pure born Eastman, I ain’t set to work”. I’ve been given quite a lot of possibilities and I simply need to play nation blues and get higher at, as a result of it’s all I actually love taking part in, it’s all I actually love listening to. It’s all I actually care about,reality advised.

I performed a present over at Irving Plaza in New York Metropolis the place I met a woman who was there for my efficiency. She spoke very earnestly and kindly with me. We had a deep dialogue. She mentioned that she thinks that lots of people from the viewers understand me to be not half Korean and half white, however half Black and half Korean. That’s one thing that considerations me, as a result of I believe the racial narrative of who will get consideration is sophisticated. I don’t need to be on the unsuitable aspect of that compass. I’m nonetheless making an attempt to determine a method to focus on my Asian identification in an upfront method. I really like this Black music. I really like nation blues music and the place it comes from and the people who find themselves doing it right now. I simply at all times need to be in the fitting place simply when it comes to the place I play the music. And on the identical time, I’m at all times going to play this music.”

Hip-tang man, certainly.

Nat Myers – “Yellow Peril”

Nat Myers – “75-71”


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