Their record company, Matador, refers to them as a "nomadic duo" and notes that Nathan "Naybob" Shineywater and Rachael Hughes, aka Brightblack Morning Light, are "currently living in rural New Mexico" (judging from the photo supplied, somewhere out in the desert). More immediately, Brightblack is in greener climes, on their way south out of Oregon on "The Crystal Totem Turr." They'll be in Arcata Friday for a show at Humboldt Brews.
HumBrews is the first place I heard Nathan and Rachael play: Five or six years back I went there to see neo-folk icon Bonnie Prince Billy, aka Will Oldham, and was drawn in by the opening act, Rainywood, an earlier incarnation of Brightblack that was exploring a sort of dub-folk sound that would evolve into the languorous reverb-soaked bright-black space-funk-gospel of today. The Rainywood EP I bought that night included a song called "River Day" about following a sparrow to take off for "a rainbow river day" enjoying the sun and rain and the colors they make together. I talked with Nathan about the song a couple of years ago when BBML was here for a fall music fest at HSU - I ran into them on the Plaza at the Farmers' Market the next morning. He told me "River Day" dated back to his days living in Arcata. At the time he was working packing toys for the Michael Olaf Montessori Company and busking with his guitar, usually by the Minor Theater. He made friends with some of the street people, including one particular old hippie (whose name escapes me) who encouraged his tendency to cut out from work and escape out 299 for river days. That same sort of feeling of escape from care carries through to the music he's making now.
A couple of weeks ago Matador released Motion To Rejoin, a follow-up to the eponymous Brightblack Morning Lightalbum of 2006.The band describes Motion... as "anti corporate, anti nuclear, anti coal," noting that it was recorded with four solar panels. Again, the dreamy music is made on processed slip-sliding guitar and vintage keyboards with occasional horn interludes and laid-back percussion. I can't really tell you exactly what songs like "Hologram Buffalo," "Past a Weatherbeaten Fencepost" or "When Beads Spell Power Leaf" are about - when there are vocals, they act more as mystic incantations than as songs in the traditional sense. All I know is, they evoke a cool, supremely relaxed feeling, and I like them - a lot.
Joining Brightblack on the Crystal Totem Turr is Avocet, aka Meara O'Reilly, formerly of a band called Feathers. She tells me, "I'll be playing songs on guitar and with an instrument that I built out of amplified silverware and horsehair, as well as singing through home-made plate reverb. My songs are often written based on the resonances of objects." Since Brightblack's music is all about resonance, I'm sure she fits right in.
Elsewhere in Arcata that night (Friday, Oct. 10) my favorite "Afrock" band WoMama marks the official release of their CD, Foté Faré with a party at Redwood Raks, the dance studio in the old Arcata Creamery. Naturally, they're including dancers: Shoshanna's Ya Habibi Belly Dancers (Redwood Raks resident troupe) and next door neighbors from New World Ballet, plus the WoMama affiliated Brazilian-style drum and dance troupe Quente sambAmore and the also-affiliated a cappella group AkaBella. Sounds like quite a party.
A couple of notes came in this week re: a Friday show at the Jambalaya. Robert Tripp wanted to let me know about his blues-rock band, The Hard Ride, formerly known as High Grade. After finding drummer Tavan Anderson (ex-Nuns with Guns) via Humboldtmusic.com earlier this year, the band played a few shows with rotating bassists before taking a break to "work on new ideas that were harder, faster and dirtier." A couple of personnel changes later Jody Goldman from Dragged By Horses signed on as bassist (a good sign). "We played our first gig last weekend at Bikes by the Bay and things are sounding better than ever," says Tripp, adding, "This Friday we're playing at Jambalaya with two touring bands. Then on Saturday, we'll be at the Lil' Red Lion with my friends Ol' Scratch who are on tour from Virginia. These guys play doom metal through a giant wall of Sunn O)))) amps and cabinets. Come on out and witness some great guitar rock!"
The second note came from my friend Coleman, an ex-local who now lives in Washington and plays with the folk-punk trio Ask Sophie. Coleman is also in Rumplesnakeskin, a three-piece power trio that was supposed to play at the Jam with The Hard Ride. "Well," says Coleman, "things don't always turn out the way you want when you are dealing with creative, march-to-a-different-drummer types, and Rumplesnakeskin's singer/guitarist bagged out on the gig. Fortunately, 2/3rds of Rumplesnakeskin is also in Ask Sophie, and we're playing a private function in Humboldt, so we recruited Brett "the Truck" Shuler to replace our singer and will play as Ask the Truck at the Jam. Hope to see you there."
Same night, over at Mazzotti's, organ/keys jam-master Melvin Seals begins a two-night run with JGB, the remnants of the Jerry Garcia Band. Friday is also Arts! Arcata night, which means music and art all around town. Photographer Chris Tuite combines music and art with this show of concert photos at Arcata Photo Studios (in the Jacoby Storehouse) including pics from local shows and stuff shot this summer in NYC during his internship with Rolling Stone.
Wait, there's more: The Gyan Riley Trio plays Friday at HSU's Fulkerson Hall. The son of minimalist music legend Terry Riley (and a former HSU music teacher) guitarist Gyan Riley mixes classical and jazz styles adding East European, Indian and African elements. One of my favorite jazz drummers, Scott Amendola, is on Gyan's latest album, Melismantra, and he'll be up for Friday's gig playing tunes from the CD along with violinist/violist Timb Harris. "We've also opened up certain sections for improvisational solos to allow for unexpected twists and turns," says Riley.
The Red Fox continues its role as reggae-central: Friday they have niceness by Pato Banton (backed by Mystic Roots), Saturday it's Bob's son, Ky-Mani Marley, then on Wednesday, Oct. 15, it's former Black Uhuru vocalist Junior Reid and The One Blood Band. Irie!
The raw food restaurant Green Life Evolution Center is moving into the old Greenhouse Boardshop in Arcata and, as they did when they were out in Blue Lake, they'll have music on occasion. Saturday, Oct. 11, they ease into the new space with a show featuring the amazing kora player Youssoupha Sidibe, who blew many minds at this summer's Reggae Rising.
Up at Fulkerson Hall Saturday, pianist Deborah Clasquin plays 20th centurymusic from all over including tunes by Ravel, Bartok, jazz piano great Bill Evans and lesser known composers Frederico Mompou and Karol Szymanowski.
Kabile Traditional Wedding Band has been playing traditional Bulgarian village music on traditional village instruments for 30 years, which, according to the Humboldt folkdancers bringing them to town, makes for "an acoustic experience quite different from [music] played on Western instruments influenced by American jazz." So, the Kabile show Sunday evening at Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Bayside should be totally worldly.