Album Reviews

Brightblack Morning Light – Brightblack Morning Light

(Matador) UK release date: 25 September 2006


Trippy folk jams from two formerly homeless Alabama hippies called Nabob and Rabob, anyone? Go on – they’re friends of Will Oldham.

It doesn’t exactly sound like a winning formula, does it? Take Nathan D. “Nabob” Shineywater, raised by his preacher grandfather and coke-dealer father, with a fondness for Steely Dan, and Rachael “Rabob” Hughes, daughter of an Alabama waterfall builder. Put them in tents in Idyllwild, Northern California, add some bells, tablas and amethyst crystals and don’t run away. Honestly, sit down, chill out and enjoy.

If I told you they played the Slint-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties would it help to convince you? What about dropping in names like Vetiver, Joanna Newsome and other alt.folk goodies with whom the inevitable comparisons are going to be drawn? Previous releases on Palace Records, covering Kate Wolf? Not convinced yet? Rachel Grimes likes them! What more do you need to know? She helps them out with some of the arrangements on this album and, let’s face it, any friend of Rachel’s is a friend of mine. Her influence is clear to hear throughout.

The result is, as you’d expect, languid stoner folk that would sound just perfect in the middle of Glastonbury’s Tipi Field as the sun sinks behind the horizon and the mushrooms start to roast on the dying embers of the campfire. It might try your patience with its handwritten press releases and hippie gibberings about The Truth of the Universe, but there are far, far more evil things in the world to worry about.

Slow, tribal beats, occasional and well-placed shamanic vocals and a sleepy, barely aware transcendent blues tempo all contribute to the perfect background music for a summer evening watching the clouds drift by and the corn ripen in the fields, as you snuggle up in an Afghan coat with rose-tinted sunglasses sliding off the end of your nose.

Nabob may have an ill-advised moustache and be fond of wittering on about the Grateful Dead given an inch of opportunity, and Rabob may be over-keen on Philip K. Dick, but they have a drummer who studies Zen meditation, they live the life in summer tents and winter lodges, and produce beautiful, beautiful gentle music. If you’re still a bit worried about homespun baggy sweaters and general freakiness, I guess you can’t be blamed. But chill out, man.

In other words, they’re very much my cup of tea, but they won’t be everyone’s. They peddle freeform sleepy jazz with hypnotic percussion you’ll either want to lie in front of for hours or run from screaming. Pass the pipe on your way out.


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