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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

NATHANIEL SAUNDERS

By Sule Greg Wilson
Published February 17, 2006

Bimini Nights
Victory

Here we have Calypso-inspired rhythms and lyrics, a strong backup band, and a wise man telling of sailing ships and local characters, happenstance and love. Nathaniel Saunders, "Piccolo Pete," is an 89-year-old Bahamian who plays the banjo at his own little nightlife establishment on that small Caribbean island. No, Saunders don't just play, he powerhouses the banjo. Backed with drum kit, electric bass and amplified acoustic guitar, he jams on a big resonator-backed four-stringer. This ain't one of those early jazz banjos, either—this guy wails! Saunders offers songs from the '20s to today. "Big Fat Slob" is about Ernest Hemingway, whom Saunders showed around the island as the author gathered inspiration to write The Old Man and the Sea. "Rosie' is a nice midtempo song of adulation. "Wasp Bite Obie" is about…well, you guess. Though it's mostly chording, every once in a while Saunders lets off with a wonderful riff on the banjo, reminding that there's plenty to pull from this often-forgotten instrument.