Tim Bluhm - The Soft Adventure/Colts (review)
From Comes with a Smile #12 (Summer 2003)

Reviewer - Matt Dornan

As primary singer and songwriter for San Francisco legends The Mother Hips, Tim Bluhm amassed a peerless portfolio of enduring classics, one that reached a criminally limited, albeit dedicated audience. Since the demise of the band earlier this year after the departure of co-writer/singer/guitarist Greg Loiacono, Bluhm has continued to ply his trade in various musical settings (including sets with Loiacono, together self-releasing the majestic studio album 'Ball-Point Birds' late last year), but 'The Soft Adventure' marks his first solo venture since '99's 'Land and Sea Chanteys'. The six track EP is paired here with an unreleased solo record from 1996, 'Colts', and together they offer insight into Bluhm's solitary lifestyle (he continues to live a semi-nomadic existence along the Californian coast in his trusty van). As expected the songs are imbued with a West Coast flavour, reminiscent of Parsons, Clark and Young, with an infusion of country balladry and yearning. Despite being recorded in 2001 it's hard not to listen to a song like Tear It Down without feeling a tinge of sadness at the break up of the band, or hear an echo of Del Mar Station in the intro to Spying on Your Teen, the kind of mid-tempo quietly salacious ode that Bluhm excels at (see also Daisy and Joaquin from 'Ball-Point Birds'). The opening pairing of 'Colts' made regular appearances on the Californian coast, I Can't Stay previously seeing the light of day as a reworked Mother Hips b-side, Tiny Blue Coffin often performed live with Loiacono. Both are songs in the classic country tradition, a mid-tempo Burritos-esque romp followed by a booze-addled, tragic ballad, both similarly timeless and authentic. The next two songs received the Mother Hips treatment on 2001's stellar 'The Green Hills of Earth' and 'Later Days' (1999) respectively. Life in the City maintains the swinging tempo for the Hips' version, but stripped of the power-pop stylings it again falls under a country guise, whilst Spotless As You remains closer in mood to its full-band counterpart. The remainder of the album switches between melody-drenched odes to lovers past, as on Rose and the Loiacono-penned Are You Making Your Way? ("I hope she looks good in your shirt"), and the kind of Haggard-esque ballads that the likes of a bourbon-basted Keith Richards might have stumbled through at the piano at 3am. Bluhm, however, has the emotional wherewithal and easy-on-the-ear gravelled voice to make such confessional music feel as painless and welcoming as mountain air, his sadness softened for our listening pleasure.