with Smith/McKay All Day and Lonesome Leash
Ahead of the release of his new forthcoming album Out Her Space , which is due out November, 17th, 2017 through Bella Union, Karl Blau is please to share new track “Beckon”. Collaborating alongside a number of musicians from Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb label as his backing band, you can l isten to the track HERE.
Sequestered away in rural bliss, 90 minutes north of Seattle on the Washington state coast, Karl Blau has been making records for 20 years, but never with European distribution. So, when Bella Union released Introducing Karl Blau in 2015, it shone a belated and deserved light on “one of the great hidden treasures of music,” claimed album producer Tucker Martine.
But given Introducing ’s specific agenda – a set of gorgeous, lush cover versions drawing mostly on vintage Nashville’s country-soul with Blau concentrating on his rich, reverberating voice – his latest album Out Her Space is so different that it could be titled Reintroducing Karl Blau.
Out Her Space features Blau’s own material, production and multi-instrumental skills, and forges a gorgeous, languid and hook-infested gumbo of soul, funk, some jazzy blowing and Afro-pop, to arrive somewhere else entirely.
The album also testifies to Blau’s studio skills, as he captures the glimmering, humid depths of those sweltering southern influences, despite his north-western heritage. But then Blau has engineered and produced a heap of records for himself and others, often at his home in Anacortes, releasing records on Washington’s favourite indies K and Knw-Yr-Own, as well as through his own Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society subscription service. But Out Her Space comes from another place, with another story to tell.
In 2009, Blau had been asked to record Richmond, Virginia country-psych band Great White Jenkins, fronted by Matthew E. White. In 2012, when White started a new label, Spacebomb, based around a house band in the style of the old Stax and Motown ventures, he called on Blau again. The album that came from this partnership was White’s solo album Big Inner (snatched up by Domino Records), which The Guardian called, “a genuine revelation.”
Having heard Blau’s own demos, White ensured that Spacebomb’s hot-to-trot backing band – centered around (now Fleet Foxes) bassist Cameron Ralston and drummer Pinson Chanselle – supported Blau too, and he came away with an album’s worth of tracks, which also featured Blau (guitar, percussion, synth, sax), White (guitar, synth), Phil Cook of MegaFaun (piano) and a wider cast of horns, piano, viola and backing vocals. It’s partly where Out Her Space got its name: “It’s a cousin to Big Inner,” says Blau.
The album plays with humanitarian themes, against a backdrop of self-immolating American politics. For starters, the title Out Her Space was equally inspired by Blau’s, “overwhelming feeling to point out that men, in general, need to listen, to stop being so assertive and to get out of her space, let her balance again. Chill out dudes, rather than lead us over the cliff.”
The opening “Poor The War Away” was written during the George W Bush era, “and it’s more relevant than ever. We’re steamrolling down the mountain side.” ‘Slow Children’ is a request for mankind to slow down, with a “rigid truth chorus” and “free association” verses, says Blau.
The speedier “Where You Goin’ Papa” also works better in 2017 than 2012, since Blau’s youngest daughter is no longer a baby, and he can think about touring again – it’s another reason, he says, why it was worth delaying this album. “I Got The Sounds Like You Got The Blues” addresses the same scenario – “as the family breadwinner, I’m telling my kids, don’t worry, I’ll be back” – while both tracks feature some mighty jazzy extemporising. “Some songs have long tails,” he says. “I thought maybe we should cut them off, but they grew on me.”
The world is out of control, but Blau’s life is anything but. Introducing Karl Blau did its job, as a great record and an introduction to a wider audience. Given Matthew E. White was voted a ‘breakout artist’ of 2012/13, then Blau, on this evidence, is unquestionably a ‘breakout artist’ of 2017/18. No one this talented should glide under the radar, no matter how much they’ve set things up that way (“the bane of Karl Blau records is that you don’t know what’s coming next!” he reckons). If Out Her Space has finally found the right time to emerge, so too has its creator.
Jimmy Smith is best known for his 2 decades performing with famed Austin, TX alt-country outfit, The Gourds, as one of the two principal songwriters and bass player. Alongside Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell, Max Johnston (formerly of Wilco), Claude Bernard and Keith Langford, the band relentlessly toured the country, playing every festival stage imaginable and recording with the likes of Doug Sahm and long-time Bob Dylan sideman, Larry Campbell. Though their days as a band came to an end in 2013, Jimmy has continued playing music as The Hard Pans, the Jimmy Smith System and most recently as a power duo in Smith-McKay All Day. He currently resides in Missoula, MT, longtime 2nd home to The Gourds.
Jimmy has a long history of playing the Idaho with The Gourds, including multiple performances at Alive After 5 and the Northern Rockies Music Festival.
Lonesome Leash is the solo project of Walt McClements, an accordionist and multi-instrumentalist known for his previous work in Dark Dark Dark [and Hurray for the Riff Raff]. Using a sparse palette of accordion, drums and voice, McClements crafts stark yet complex songs, nervous and triumphant hymns to the restless. Despite being anchored by the often anachronistic accordion, the music ends up having less to do with contemporary purveyors of old world idioms, and more to do with an alternate history—one where angular accordion lines take prominence over the guitar in a nervy and strangely cinematic post-punk tradition.
Precious Futures is the follow up to 2013’s debut I am no captain, and is Lonesome Leash’s first release on fellow Dark Dark Dark member Nona Marie Invie’s Mind Rider Records. Where previous Lonesome Leash recordings explored layers of lush feedback and textural accordion tones, Precious Futures strips the songs to their sinew, offering an approximation of the project’s “one-man-band” live approach: terse drums syncopated with accordion and distinctive, roiling vocals. This is McClements at his most exposed, and what these songs lack in embellishment, they gain in impact.
“Sometimes bridges burn themselves/no flint, no fuel, no careless match/you just feel the flames and you don’t turn back” is the album’s opening line, and it’s a fitting introduction to a song cycle that primarily deals with motion. Most of the album was written in a two-year period of nearly continuous tour, a time of travel which served as the transition between McClements leaving his longtime home New Orleans and settling in Los Angeles. Precious Futures is comprised of fragmented stories, but they are fragments of one narrative, where momentum, love, and lust serve as stand-ins for the feeling of home. It is a record that chronicles movement and the thrill of the affair, but also explores the drives beneath those things, all with a wry wit that is so characteristic of McClements’ storytelling. The end result is at once romantic, neurotic, and ultimately gratifying.”