John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff With Tonk
Thursday, May 14, 6-9 p.m. Free
American Tobacco Amphitheater
318 Blackwell St.
www.americantobaccocampus.comNathan Golub & Wood Ear
Saturday, May 16, 9:30 p.m. $5
Nice Price Books
3106 Hillsborough St.

In 2012, Nathan Golub had been playing the pedal steel guitar for four years, methodically learning new techniques, tricks and licks. A veteran of bluegrass and rock acts, he had joined a country-rock band with the instrument in tow. Every time he felt his playing had adequately advanced, he would buy a more complicated, hulking version.

But when his first child, Meyer, was born that year, Golub elected to become a stay-at-home dad, at least for a while. He suddenly had a lot of spare time to study the country music staple. He soon realized, however, he couldn’t plug the 20-string electric beast through a powerful amplifier in a 750-square-foot homeat least if he wanted his son to sleep.

Instead, Golub returned to the acoustic guitar, rediscovering a previously abandoned interest in fingerpicking. The move linked well with the lifestyle change.

“Being home with my son during that time, my world was really small. We were in this tiny house. If I went anywhere, it was around the neighborhood. The mindset was very insular,” says Golub. “It was really nice, because I like being alone to think about things. Getting into those tunings, I found things that resonated with me, musically and personally.”

The break from pedal steel proved doubly productive. Golub is now not only an area mainstay of that instrument but also a solo instrumentalist writing captivating, intimate numbers for a lone guitar and occasional effects. For someone who spends so much time supporting other people with a contraption as ornate as pedal steel, Golub has found the simplicity of the individual approach to be empowering.

“How little do I need to play a gig? At first, I had an amp, a pick-up, even a delay pedal to give it some atmosphere. But then I thought, ‘What if I took that away?’” he says. “That still appeals to me.”


Nathan Golub

LOCATION: The spare bedroom of his home in Durham

AGE: 35

KNOWN FOR: A former bluegrass band frontman, Golub is now one of the area’s in-demand session players for pedal steel accents and a promising new entrant in the field of solo guitar instrumentalists.

INFLUENCES: Bluegrass pickers, blues players, the fingerpicking, Hot Tuna-loving hippies of Florida, where he was raised; pedal steel masters like Weldon Myrick and Mike “Cookie” Jones; modern acoustic masters like the fabled John Fahey and the young Steve Gunn.

HEAR & SEE: Between sessions and shows as a sideman and soloist, Golub maintains a busy musical schedule. You can hear him backing the Mountain Goats on the new Beat the Champ or supporting Michael Rank on Stag’s albums. But his most regular gig comes in support of country crooner John Howie Jr. in The Rosewood Bluff. His pedal steel whinnies and moans. Still, it’s his recent solo work that’s earning Golub newfound attention. Last year’s excellent Ellerbee River Blues offered an introductory study of contemplative instrumentals, and he’s already followed it up with a split with Durham’s Wood Ear this year.

Listen to Nathan Golub’s Slender Spindle

VOLUME PEDAL: “It’s a really beautiful aspect of the sound. When I first started, I thought you keep the volume all the way open and then bring it down to create the volume swells people associate with this instrument. It took me a long time to learn that what the pros do is create the illusion of a consistent volume. When they attack the string, that’s the loudest part. If you think about the volume pedal being about 70 percent, you back it up to 60 when you hit the string. As the note decays, you open it up, so that it sounds like the volume is the same, even as the note disappears. I pay more attention to that, in some ways, than musical concepts. For the most part, I play simple musical concepts. But having an appropriate tone for the song I’m playingand the quality being really niceis something I think about a lot.”

This article appeared in print with the headline “Parenting interrupted”