By: Dennis Cook
Nuance ain't easy. There's a tendency towards forthrightness in the English language and rock music that emphasizes specificity and focus over subtlety and open-ended-ness. Tim Bluhm is the essence of nuance, strumming and swooning on a razor's edge between all-out accessibility and adventurous cheek. He's too bloody good a composer to write less than catchy material but there's a dented, gnarled undercurrent to his work that speaks of ancestors like Tim Buckley and Nick Drake. When these streams within him converge, the music that spills over is amongst the best there is. House Of Bluhm (Little Sur) is a floodtide of his virtues couched in some of his most nuanced landscapes to date.
House is aptly titled as it gives a nice overview of Tim Bluhm's many rooms. Before a word is uttered, "Letter From A Bus" fires off a classic note cluster akin to The Zombies or The Hollies, enchantment in a few chords that sweeps you off. Like Bluhm's lead-off track from The Mother Hips last release, "Mission In Vain" (off 2007's Kiss The Crystal Flake), "Bus" doesn't take a route you expect, ultimately veering into craggier side roads than the opening minutes would imply. Slipping expectations is one of Bluhm's gifts, which he shows off again & again here. Where the ghostly slide blues of "Spooked Cat" suggests mildly creepy folk, the next cut, "The Hand," is 1976 AM Gold, a melancholy sparkler meant to shoulder up to Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan. Curiously, "Dear Wild Animal" finds him doing the best Greg Loiacono impression ever, a spot-on invocation of his Mother Hips creative partner in style and delivery. His inner studio alchemist emerges on "Black Telegram," which out freaks the freak-folk kids, putting crackle and hiss into a slice of darkness that drifts hypnotically. Lest ye wander off, "Squeaky Wheel" chugs with speakeasy piano and hayride glee, "Cow Hollow Folly" shows Bluhm is one of the few guys fit to hold the hem of Crazy Horse's '70s legacy, and closer "Dora Lee" is gorgeously ascending ache that's all Bluhm.
Anyone looking for just one aspect of the man – be it the Hips' classic country, psych tinged pop-rock, his stirring solo acoustic work or his chooglin' with pal Jackie Greene in Skinny Singers – may be frustrated by House Of Bluhm but for those who've embraced all aspects of this amazing singer-songwriter this is a feast, a series of delicately spiced courses that each stimulate the senses in their own way. Less straight ahead than some of his recent work, this one seems to reflect the true scope of this musician.
JamBase | Worldwide
Go See Live Music!