Fire and brimstone never sounded so good. Nat and Flo's Gutter Gospel plays music that's tragically American. It's faith and failure. Belief and booze. Based more or less on somebody or other's true story.
Nat & Flo lean on the old timey tradition like a sturdy crutch. Nat grew up on the open Minnesota prairie, the son of poor, God-fearing tenant farmers. His wanderlust carried him off the family spread and from coast to coast living out of a guitar case.
Flo, an orphan from birth, knows no blood kin and grew up in a traveling tent show under the care of a pentecostal preacher with a taste for cheap bourbon.
Folklore has it that a young Nat secretly traded his neighbor a good laying hen for an old guitar. When his papa found the hen missing, the youth was threatened with a lashing but his sweet guitar sounds soothed the angry father and he got to keep the guitar, which he made good use of by playing locally at church functions and late night hootenannies.
Having met in a halfway house for wayward drifters, Nat and Flo found they shared a strong tie to the country roots lineage and took to the road.
Their sets include numbers from the lesser-known side of Appalachia — obscure tunes penned by 19th-century preachers and brought into glory by once-popular brothers duos like the Blue Sky Boys, the Stanley, Monroe, Delmore and Louvin brothers. Others by the likes of the Carter Family, Grayson and Whitter, and the Georgia Yellow Hammers. There's not a song in the show that's less than 60 years old.
While most of these tunes preach salvation, it's no simple matter. Yes, these are tales of struggles to make sense of death and suffering, struggles to keep a good head in a bad world. But they are also the theme songs of hillbilly heroes who sing sweet about God's grace only to spend the rest of the night chasing girls in an alcohol- and pill- fueled tear. This ain't Sunday school. It's road weary tales straight from life's hard side, and straight from the hearts & souls of our musical ancestry.
Contemporary bluegrass outfits find their roots in the same fertile soil, but go to great lengths to avoid the God stuff. Nat and Flo's Gutter Gospel unearths these songs without shame, dusts them off, and puts a spit shine on them for posterity.