You’d never catch her dead disheveled/ She wore her buttons brassed and beveled/ Air host, Continental … Houston bound
That’s how you start an album.
Those scene-setting opening lines from the song “Race the Sun,” which kicks off Beyond the Gate, the new record by local singer/songwriter Henry Crook Bird, hooked me. The lyrics of the other five tracks have since tugged on my imagination as well, but “Race the Sun” (an airplane song about a stewardess outflying her home life, living new ones with each takeoff and landing … am I close?) has so many lines that have gotten under my skin:
Up there time’s a foregone end/ They can race the sun and nearly win/ Every touchdown’s another one, amen, born again
Call her the shepherd of limbo with a seltzer in her hand
You’re killing me, Hank!
The stewardess/shepherd is joined by many other curious characters on the album: the stripper mom with “a wit like a straight razor held to your throat” (“Tracks of Silver”); Magnus the mole (“Magnus”); and a narrator insisting “deep down within me is a green meadow in bloom” (“Green Meadow”).
Bird was raised in Marysville, and he delivers his words with plainspoken vocals in a familiar Cali-rural twang that suits the folk storytellin’ therein. His acoustic guitar finger-picking is as fine as his lyrics, prettying up the mostly slow numbers and adding a lively solo over strumming uke on the only uptempo song, “Magnus.”
This is a wonderful treat from a local artist—maybe my favorite record of 2022 so far—and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Download a copy for only $5 at henrycrookbird.bandcamp.com and join Bird (and fellow local hillbilly troubadour Jeff Coleman) for the Beyond the Gate release party on June 12, at 3 p.m., at Secret Trail Brewing Co.
From Jamaica to Helltown
Dylan’s Dharma is killing it! Since 2019, the much-loved local rock/reggae crew has been working on music with the legendary Ducky Simpson of Black Uhuru, and last month, the collaboration yielded the album New Day, released in conjunction with the 50-year anniversary of the seminal Jamaican reggae/dub band.
The album was recorded with Dylan’s Dharma collaborator King Hopeton at his studio in the Butte Creek Canyon community of Helltown (and hometown of many of the band members). The debut single, “Brand New Day,” is a rerecording of a tune by Dylan’s Dharma and features frontman Dylan Seid on vocals with Simpson. The accompanying video also stars a cast of Butte County characters and locales—including LaRocca Vineyards, the family operation of Dylan’s Dharma percussionist/co-namesake, Dharma