Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers

“Our music definitely hearkens another era,” says Nicki Bluhm, “but at the same time, we want
it to be contemporary. Reflective of now even though it nods to other times. We want it to be
vintage modern.”
With Loved Wild Lost, Little Sur recording group Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers fully affirm a
current place in the long winding continuum of the California Sound, born of folk, rock, country,
psychedelia, blues, and pop, as ageless, adventurous, and ever-adaptive as the Golden State
itself. The album – which follows the Bay Area-based band’s eponymous 2013 debut – sees Nicki
Bluhm & The Gramblers teaming with producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, Josh
Ritter), their first time working with an outside collaborator. The result is the critically acclaimed
band’s most compelling collection thus far. The richly layered sound forms the ideal foundation
for Bluhm’s remarkable voice and resonant lyrical gifts. Added color is provided by San
Francisco’s Magik*Magik Orchestra (Death Cab for Cutie, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The
Walkmen), whose multifarious string arrangements amplify the album’s sound.
Three years of new experiences and nearly non-stop roadwork has had a powerful effect on The
Gramblers, spurring creative growth and personal reflection. Songs like “Love Your Loved Ones”
explore life’s seismic shifts, what Nicki describes as “the struggle to retain the energy and
optimism of youth as life becomes more complex.”
Multi-instrumentalist, co-songwriter, and Nicki’s husband, Tim Bluhm is the quintessential Golden
State musician. Tim has been known for two decades as singer/guitarist/primary songwriter in
beloved SF rock ‘n’ rollers The Mother Hips and as an in-demand producer, session player and
collaborator. Tim & Nicki first assembled The Gramblers in 2008 to serve as Nicki’s road band in
support of her two Tim-produced solo outings. The line-up soon gelled into its current state,
comprising Nicki’s childhood friend, guitarist/songwriter Deren Ney, bassist – and ALO co-founder
– Steve Adams, rhythm guitarist Dave Mulligan, and drummer Mike Curry.
It quickly became clear that Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers was more than a talented singer/
songwriter and her backing musicians – they were a band. As such, what was initially planned as
Nicki’s third solo record became Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers’ self-titled debut album. Nicki
Bluhm & The Gramblers propelled the band to national attention, earning praise from American
Songwriter as “a modest, melodic gem (that) neatly combines the rustic vibe of The Band with
the more polished approach of Buckingham/Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac.”
The Gramblers toured hard, logging over 200 shows in 2012 alone, including headline tours and
festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Hangout, Newport Folk, Telluride Bluegrass and
Warren Haynes’ Mountain Jam. National notice rolled in, with Bluhm being featured in The Gap’s
worldwide “Shine” campaign in support of their “Icons Redefined” collection and widely viewed
TV appearances on CBS This Morning and TBS’ Conan.
When time came to record a follow-up, The Gramblers decided it would behoove them to work
with an outside collaborator. A phone conversation with Brian Deck – a veteran studio hand and
founding member of Chicago’s Red Red Meat – affirmed him as a producer that could be trusted
to help forward the band’s overall goals.

In spring 2014 The Gramblers held 10 days of pre-production sessions at a friend’s ranch in coastal
Pescadero, allowing them uninterrupted time to woodshed and collaborate, to share songs and
experiences. More importantly, the band needed to settle back into a studio dynamic, to pull
back from the inevitable sonic “leaning forward” that comes from three solid years playing clubs
and theatres.
“You have to reset,” says Tim, “make sure you’re playing songs that are going to sound good on a
stereo in someone’s house or in their car, not just on the stage.”
“We just really wanted to work out the kinks without wasting Brian’s time later,” Nicki says. “We
wanted to come prepared.”
In August, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers convened at Panoramic Studios in Stinson Beach for two
weeks of serious recording. Deck “really kicked our ass,” says Nicki. “The vision was ours, but
Brian helped our musicianship, our communication. There was a kind of professionalism in the
studio that we needed to push us to the next level. Brian’s a drummer and I think its great to
have a musician as a producer – they get it. They understand because they’ve lived it.”
Together Deck and the band made a conscious effort to hone The Gramblers’ sound, fusing a
framework of archetypal musical idioms into something unique and universal, its individual
elements complementing and counterpointing the songs’ deeper themes.
“On the last record there’s a little bit of soul, a little bit of country, a little bit of rock,” Nicki
says. “This record, we were trying to make it much more cohesive.”
“The sound is becoming more unique,” Tim says. “An entity unto itself.”
Loved Wild Lost has the sprawling energy of lives in constant transition, manifested in both its
contemplative lyricism and expansive sonic palette. Time spent in the van moves slowly and yet
passes in an instant, newlyweds become old married couples, strangers become friends become
family, wide-eyed innocents become grizzled veterans of the road.
“I think you can clearly hear all that happening in these songs,” Tim says. “Idealism and optimism
losing control to the forces of inertia and a life of constant traveling. Happiness becomes an
intention and love becomes a long term study of oneself and of one another.”
The band’s approach is both wide-ranging and ambitious, yet always united by a devotion to clear
committed songcraft. The band’s three songwriting members all brought in material, with Nicki
and Tim contributing the majority. In some ways, Loved Wild Lost can be like listening in on a
private conversation between the Bluhms, with all the secrets and truths of their marriage
hidden in plain sight.
“Your songs are like a diary in code,” Nicki says.
“Of course there’s subtext to all of these songs,” Tim says. “I probably shouldn’t admit that,
because then it’s not really subtext.”
“It’s so comforting,” Nicki says, “when you feel all these emotions that you can’t even put your
finger on, but then somebody says it in a song and it encapsulates that feeling that you had, it
helps you navigate your life. It puts words to it. Tim’s songs have always done that for me. He’s

able to lasso these huge concepts and put them into these perfect phrases. He’s inspired by so
many things which is inspiring to me.” Tim-penned songs like “High Neck Lace” allow Nicki to
articulate herself on a vast array of subjects, spanning aging, personal politics, intense
psychological observation, the search for meaning, and the very mysteries of life itself.
Meanwhile, songs like “Mr. Saturday Night” see Nicki’s own songwriting prowess growing in
melodic strength and lyrical candor, “really getting my insides on the outside in an uninhibited
way.” Inspired by a photo of a cowgirl in rose covered regalia, her “Queen of the Rodeo” might
well be the album’s emotional heart, a singular and slightly subconscious expression of her own
amazing journey.
“In my head I was writing a character,” she says. “But listening back during pre-production I
realized it was much more autobiographical than I had ever intended it to be. I got hit with, wow,
I am totally talking about myself and I didn’t even know it. It’s all very metaphoric of course; it’s
about working really hard and moving through obstacles and still maintaining your inner strength.
Because it’s really hard – it’s hard to be a woman in this industry, it’s hard to be a woman on the
road, it’s hard to be married to a band mate. I think that song was a way for me to release
whatever I’d been holding because it came out a lot more personal than I thought.”
“There’s a blind spot that every songwriter has,” Tim says. “That’s one of the things I love about
Nicki’s songs, there’s an innocence to her voice, her lyrical voice, that I definitely don’t have
anymore.”
Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers are now ready to kick start the cycle once more, with all the
infinite roadwork and new experiences that entails. Loved Wild Lost reverberates with invention,
passion, and spontaneity, but it is but a milestone on a band’s endless highway.
“As the story of The Gramblers unfolds I get new ideas about the directions it could go,” Tim
says. “Every time you go around a corner there’s a new view that shows you something that you
haven’t seen. It’s always changing and you have to respond to the feedback the world is giving
you.”
“I can’t tell the future,” Nicki Bluhm says. “I just want us to stay open to whatever feels best.”

Brothers Comatose

“The good thing about a string band, is that things tend to culminate with dancing rather than elbows flying in a mosh-pit,” says Gio Benedetti of the Brothers Comatose. The original members of the quintet with brothers Alex and Ben Morrison, bonded at the Morrison family acoustic music parties before taking a youthful foray into punk and rock bands *and ultimately* before circling back to the music they learned in that living room. They credit both beginnings for the attitude of their current music. and As a testament to their skillful energy; they have already played the major festivals including the esteemed Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, The Strawberry Festival and High Sierra.

On the new album, Respect The Van out May 22, their music is not a wavering mélange of assorted styles, but decided and strong bluegrass-influenced folk rock. With the addition of members Philip Brezina (fiddle) and Ryan Avellone (mandolin) the band aims “to offer a damn good time, with a no-bullshit style that we found in those original living room parties and our live shows,” says Ben. “We tracked everything for the album live in one big room – treating the studio like a stage,” he explains.

As for the name, only a brother could pick it out by observing his sibling. Guitarist *and vocalist* Ben said when brother Alex Morrison *(banjo and vocals) * goes into a trance-like state while playing his banjo, “his eyes roll back in his head like he’s in a coma.” It’s certainly not indicative of their music, which doesn’t have any of the indulgent noodling breaks characterized by other string based bands – though the musicianship is solidly there, it’s given with a communal and inclusive spirit to sing and dance along to. Now, at live shows, the San Francisco band is known for handing out chopsticks to the audience for participatory percussion on whatever surface is closest.

And while the music is strong and clear, there are some serious themes as in the lead track “Modern Day Sinners,” a Guthrie inspired populist sing-along with shades of 50's R&B and doo-wop in the harmonies and feel. “I wanted to call ‘bullshit’ of the type of politician or fat radio host that’s giving advice while living a terrible and shameful life,” says *bassist and* vocalist and banjoist Gio.

“Scout” was written by Ben as part of “The 52 week club,” a songwriting group that sends out theme a week as a writing prompt. “It my first contribution. I wrote it from an autobiographical perspective of a young boy scout hanging out with his grandpa,” shares Ben. “My grandpa was a nice man some of the time, but could also just be bitter and I always wondered what he was so angry about. This song is about the young scout hanging onto his youth and and hoping to keep that spirit at the end.”

120 East” is a harmonic ode to the brotherhood of a band, written about The Brothers Comatose's journey to and from The Strawberry Music Festival. “I wanted to capture the sense of being with your best friends, of being willing to trust them and follow them anywhere,” says Gio.

The band wrote a raucous, fiddle tune ode to their 1988 Chevy G20 tour van and called it, fittingly, “The Van Song.” “Phil wrote all the instrumental melodies and it didn't have any official lyrics for a long time,” says Gio. “It saw two rowdy live performances where we all just made up verses on the spot. We finally wrote some real lyrics, and had to record it - we love our van in a way that is border-line obsessive.”

“Morning Time” is Ben’s folk-country duet with breakout artist Nicki Bluhm. “It tells of the ever present struggles between man and woman – the guy wants to maintain his life in the big city with all of its late nights, bustle and craziness and the woman is ready for a mellower life. It’s a compromise and ultimately setting aside some quality time in the morning to spend together,” shares Ben

“Feels Like The Devil” is a drop-tuned, resonator-driven shit-kicker that would be at home on any bluegrass stage, while “Pennies are Money Too” is an old-timey instrumental that well illustrates the band’s musicianship.

Despite their name, the band is anything but Comatose. “It's just one, big, extended Morrison music party,” they say. The Brothers Comatose will be playing all spring and summer including April dates in Boise, Portland, Eugene, Washington State, North Carolina and all thru California, including appearances at the Banjo-B-Cue festival, and the Kate Wolf Festival. More dates and new videos will be announced soon.

adv tix $15.00 / day of show tix $17.00

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR STARTING @ 7pm.---CASH ONLY

All ticket purchasers will receive a digital download of the new Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers album! Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, hailing from San Francisco, will be celebrating their forthcoming album release with a California tour in August. The new album will be released Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 on Little Sur and will be the debut under Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers. The album will serve as the follow up to Nicki Bluhm's Driftwood and include the current single and live favorite "Little Too Late."

Who’s Going

16

Upcoming Events
Troubadour