Tim Bluhm - The Soft Adventure/Colts (review)

Recorded by Dean Kattari and Ricardo Gomez at Dark Signal Studios and by Rob Baldwin and Tim Bluhm on a 4-track, probably at somebody's house Released on California Recordings

Reviewer - Owen Otto

The Mother Hips at their best - when they left behind the hippie jam rock tendencies - were an amazing country rock band with inklings of the Beach Boys in their more experimental period. And that's exactly where this solo album from Hips' frontman Tim Bluhm takes off. Actually it's sort of two separate albums grouped together on one disc: The Soft Adventure, a new 6-song EP, and Colts, an unreleased full-length, recorded back in '96. The EP is a near flawless batch of stripped down tunes, reminiscent of early '70s Neil Young, with warm keyboards, slinky guitar lines, and memorable melodies. Bluhm's weirder side is welcome, and especially evident, on “Thinking of Home and of Mother,” which sets a simple acoustic guitar and voice tune in the middle of a galaxy of delayed electric guitar plinks and strange falsetto harmonies. Colts is a bit more straight 4-track acoustic music, less original and a little less even in the songwriting, but still a good little record. Especially of note is Bluhm's guitar playing - he's the kind of guitarist that could probably “shred” if he wanted to, but instead chooses to serve the song with soulful fills and the occasional solo that's thoroughly singable. His tone is always organic and raw, untainted by effects, so that even when he busts out the guitar harmonies on “Life in the City,” an edge is maintained. Another high point is “Tiny Blue Coffin” on which he plays with the volume control, creating a pedal steel-like series of swells and sighs. The whole thing sounds homemade in the best sense of the word - unpretentious and earnestly emotive.