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The upright bass and the human voice. Two essential musical instruments, one with roots in 15th century Europe, the other as old as humanity itself.

On Bass Fiddler (Adhyâropa Records), the debut album from singer-songwriter and bassist Nate Sabat, the scope is narrowed down a bit. Drawing from the rich and thriving tradition of American folk music, Sabat delivers expertly-crafted original songs and choice covers with the upright bass as his lone tool for accompaniment. 

The concept was born a decade ago,

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when Sabat began studying with the legendary old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky at Berklee College of Music. “One of Bruce’s specialties is singing and playing fiddle at the same time. The second I heard it I was hooked,” recalls Sabat. “I thought, how can I do this on the bass?” From there, he was off to the races, arranging original and traditional material with Molsky as his guide. “Fast forward to 2020, and I — like so many other musicians — was thinking of how to best spend my time. I sat down with the goal of writing some new songs and arranging some new covers, and an entire record came out.” When the time came to make the album, it was evident that Molsky would be the ideal producer. “I asked Bruce if he was interested, and luckily for me he was. It’s been a true honor to work with him, and it’s been amazing to witness what we started 10 years ago come to life.”

 

While this record is, at its core, a folk music album, Sabat uses the term broadly. Some tracks lean more rock (“In the Shade”), some more pop (“White Marble” “Rabid Thoughts”), some more jazz (“Fade Away”), but the setting ties them all together. “There’s something inherently folksy about a musician singing songs with their instrument, no matter the influences behind the compositions themselves,” Sabat notes. To be sure, there’s plenty of folk songs (“Louise” “Sometimes” “Eli”) and fiddling (“Year of the Ox”) to be had here — the folk music fan won’t go hungry. There’s a healthy dose of bluegrass too (“Orphan Annie” “Lonesome Night”), clean and simple, the way Mr. Bill Monroe intended. 

 

All in all, this album shines a light on an instrument that often goes overlooked in the folk music world, enveloping the listener in its myriad sounds, textures and colors. “There’s nothing I love more than playing the upright bass,” exclaims Sabat. “My hope is that listeners take the time to sit with this album front to back — I want them to take in the full scope of the work. I have a feeling they’ll hear something they haven’t heard before.”

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