Most classic summer albums roll the same way. Packed with crunchy guitar riffs, Beach Boys harmonies or clean Jay-Z beats, they call: Get out in the sun and copulate before it's too late. That, or the vibe roams around a shimmering nostalgia, dramatically recalling the lost days of, well, glorious copulation.
Either way, voices usually come loud and out-front, creating a bossiness over the mood. It's like hanging with a friend who won't shut up, for fear of seeming boring.
Brightblack Morning Light's self-titled first release on indie powerhouse Matador Records is a great summer album but unconventional. Rather than shouting it all out, Brightblack patiently carve out a dense, slow-as-molasses, '60s-inspired R&B. Though the album has an undeniable torch-light warmth, it's a place where the listener really only feels at home after doing some walking around.
What may sound sleepy at first becomes powerfully hypnotic. Voices sway in a breathy breeze, drums and various shakers strike a deep back beat, a Rhodes keyboard and guitars share pulsing, mellow interchanges.
Brightblack consists of longtime pals from Alabama, vocalist/guitarist Nathan Shineywater and vocalist/keyboardist Rachael Hughes (Nabob and Rabob in brief). As the two write in their handwritten press materials, they were "homeless" during the making of the album, "living in tents in rural Northern California." This statement, combined with their shaggy visages, Native American-inspired lyrical philosophies and environmental activism have had many in the press crying hippie.
During their first stint in national newspaper pages, they've often been seen as extensions of their "freak folk" friends, like Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Andy Cabic.
Rabob asserts that, despite help from folks like former Banhart producer Thom Monahan, Brightblack has their own thing going.
"You know, yeah, it's really good to have a community, but I tell you, we have a lot of ideas of our own," says Rabob. "I think [being lumped in] is just a fault of our culture, the media having to stamp a label on something, just so they can call it something; that's their only way to articulate."
Some of Brightblack's ideas have been to have Matador print their album materials on 100-percent recycled paper, and, as Rabob says, to make independent music more progressive and environmentally responsible. But Rabob's main concern at the moment is getting the duo's robust sound to translate live.
"When there is a good sound system, even though it might be a bar scene ... it offers everyone else a fully-realized sound that we are trying to give folks," she says.
And their sound is all slow soul flavor. During the making of the record, Nabob and Rabob traveled down to Nashville to employ gospel singers and a trombone player, with fruitful results. It's a product of the duo's vision, the work of friends and the sticky hot summer.
"It was definitely hot," says Rabob of the recording process. "We were able to go to the river almost every day. There were some hash chocolates involved.
"It was just a really good time, a really good laid-back time, and I think that comes across."
Brightblack Morning Light, with Daniel Higgs and Marie Siouxx
hi-dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver
Saturday, July 15, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $8, 21-plus; available at the door.
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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