Gladden House Sessions 2018: Bill MacKay

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Chicago-based guitarist-composer-improviser Bill Mackay opened at the Gladden House Stage on Saturday, June 2, the third day of the Nelsonville Music Festival. His easy blend of folk and country provided a nice backdrop for early festival-goers as they streamed in through the entrance. His nimble, spirited fingerpicking captivated his audience as he effortlessly switched from one style of music to another, showcasing his dynamic range of tone and genre.

Before his performance, MacKay talked with Gladden House host Josh Antonuccio about his music and collaborations with other artists. In addition to working with fellow Chicagoan Ryley Walker on several albums, MacKay was also a founding member of the band Darts & Arrows. On trying to define his musical style, MacKay said it’s hard to pin down to just one. He likes to play a variety of musical genres, and notes that he is a big fan of improvising in the moment.

MacKay’s first song of the day was “Powder Mill Park,” one of the songs off of his most recent solo album Esker (Drag City). His next song “Lonesome Traveler” was a solo version of the original duet he recorded with Ryley Walker for their 2017 album SpiderBeetleBee (Drag City). For his last song “Pretty Weeds Revisited,” also from SpiderBeetleBee, MacKay pulled out what he called his “special other guitar”; a five-string requinto guitar.