Singer-songwriter Tim Bluhm shared a new video for his song “Jesus Save A Singer.” The track is the latest single from his recently issued solo record, Sorta Surviving.
Tim Bluhm’s fifth solo record, his first in ten years, Sorta Surviving, is the country record he’s always wanted to put out there. Most of his musical life has found Bluhm steeped in old country songs, particularly those that came out of the oil fields of Bakersfield, California back in the 1950’s and 60’s. He’s worked those songs into his band, The Mother Hips, sets and he was instrumental in forming the country band of ace Bay Area players, Brokedown In Bakersfield, that revived many of the old songs and brought them to a hungry audience that hung on every note every night. But this latest record is his true homage to those great tunes and his self-penned songs are worthy of taking a prominent place among the greats of the genre.
This edition of Saturday Stream presents a Spotify Playlist made up of many of those covers of Haggard’s classic songs. The set features musicians both within and outside the realm of country music and recordings from across the past 50 years. Tim Bluhm and Emmylou Harris can be heard offering their takes on one of Merle’s final songs, “Kern River.”
There’s nothing like going to the source of your inspiration to really understand its intricacies. Californian Tim Bluhm, of The Mother Hips, did just that when he decided to do a country music album. Sorta Surviving was recorded at Johnny Cash’s cabin-cum-studio, and features A-list players like Jesse Aycock on guitar and Elizabeth Cook on background vocals. The result is a record a lot of people in Nashville just wish they could do.
For the 30-or-so years he’s sung and written songs for California rock outfit The Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm has been a quiet admirer of classic country music, idolizing the Bakersfield sound and shrewd storytelling of fellow Californian Merle Haggard. His new solo record, Sorta Surviving, finally welcomes that appreciation to the fore. Recording at Cash Cabin studios in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Bluhm set out to craft a story collection of his own, adorned with honky-tonk piano and pedal steel.
More usually found fronting Cal-Soul outfit The Mother Hips, Bluhm's first solo album in over 10 years finds him returning to his love of old school honky tonk country. Backed by some of Nashville's finest session sidemen, including Jesse Aycock on guitars and vocals, he opens with the barroom piano and saloon waltzing 'Jesus Save A Singer', its lyric about a singer in search of salvation who tries to sing the truth he can't live setting the playful tone that permeates the material. That finds further expression in the too much booze-themed morning after a night on the town 'Where I Parked My Mind' with its classic steel licks and, likewise, 'Squeaky Wheel' a frisky banjo bluegrass romp about being on the road, resisting temptation and not letting getting older stop you rolling along.
Today, Tim Bluhm releases his new full-length solo album Sorta Surviving via Blue Rose Music. Known as the frontman for praised rock outfit The Mother Hips, Sorta Surviving is a testament to Bluhm's versatility as an artist and honed skill as a songwriter. Recorded while coping with a recent divorce and during recovery from a nearly-fatal paragliding crash, the album finds Bluhm at a unique place - grateful, appreciative for his life, and more determined than ever. Produced by Widespread Panic's Dave Schools, Sorta Surviving features an all-star lineup of musicians including Elizabeth Cook (vocals), Jesse Aycock (guitar, vocals) and Jason Crosby (piano, violin, organ), as well as Nashville legends, David Roe (bass) and Gene Chrisman (drums).
The front man for the Bay Area band Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm, steps aside to deliver an authentic country album recorded at Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, Tenn. Yet, this is not an unexpected path for Bluhm, whose connections to classic country figures like Johnny Cash and, closer to home, Merle Haggard, are quite tangible. Bluhm's covers a tune from each along with 7 of 10 originals, proving that he too can adeptly write classic country songs.
We could say that it’s a strange time in country music when someone like the front man of the California indie rock band The Mother Hips is releasing a record, and it’s 95% more country, a leagues better than most of what you’ll hear in the mainstream of country today. But in truth this is not a new phenomenon. From John Doe of X, to Mike Ness of Social Distortion, even back to Jerry Garcia and Gram Parsons in eras past, California rockers making country records is not an anomaly, it’s fertile ground for finding great country albums off the beaten path, better than many alternatives, and imbued with a uniqueness in style and perspective.
Ever curious and wildly prolific, Tim Bluhm simultaneously released a slew of his own solo and collaborative projects throughout his time with the Mother Hips, a band he co-founded while still a student at Cal State Chico. In 2013, he helped launch Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, serving as both mentor and music director for the group, which was fronted by his then-wife. The band performed on national TV, racked up millions of views on YouTube, and played festivals from Bonnaroo and Newport Folk to Hangout and Mountain Jam before Tim and Nicki ultimately parted ways in 2015.
Sorta Surviving differs from a Mother Hips record in that the band is different, the instrumentation is different, and the presentation is different, but it’s a record that anyone with an appreciation for what Bluhm has done -- and continues to do -- as a frontman and songwriter should be able to sink their teeth into.