West Coast rock ‘n’ roller turned Americana singer-songwriter Tim Bluhm mirrors the social consciousness of Bob Dylan and the Oklahoma to California storytelling of Merle Haggard in his brand-new song and video “Raining Gravel.”
Bluhm’s rock credentials include a storied run as the singer of The Mother Hips and a stint with California soul ensemble Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. Roots aficionados may also recognize him as a collaborator with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann’s Grateful Dead side project Rhythm Devils. The rootsier elements of past bands allow him to approach the American folk and country songbook like an old pro.
With an acoustic guitar and an axe to grind, he wrote a vivid, historically-based narrative about the Dust Bowl — an area of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas that suffered from severe soil erosion in the 1930s, forcing farmers to relocate to the Pacific Coast.
“I look back at the Dust Bowl and the subsequent westward migration and see many similarities to our current situation,” Bluhm says. “The environmental policies and beliefs that caused the Dust Bowl echo the debate surrounding forestry policies and the widespread wildfires in the West. It would be impossible for me to regard the plight of the ‘Okie’ without comparing it to current immigration debates around the world.”
The song, from an album expected to drop sometime in 2019, was recorded by Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools at Johnny Cash’s historic Cash Cabin. To capture an old school sound, Bluhm worked with the rhythm section of veteran Nashville bassist Dave Roe (Jerry Reed, Sturgill Simpson) and Gene Crisman, the drummer on such historic albums as Dusty in Memphis and John Prine’s self-titled 1971 debut.
Pacho Velez (Manakamana, The Reagan Show) directed the video, which provides visual reminders for Bluhm’s socially-conscious history lesson. “It was a pleasure to work with Tim Bluhm and Blue Rose Music,” Velez says. “The inspiration for the “Raining Gravel” video was a combination of Tim Bluhm’s song, which so eloquently narrates the events of the Dust Bowl, and executive producer Joe Poletto’s brainstorm to include archival footage from the 1930s. As the video’s director, I combined these elements into a story about the dignified labor of farmers then and now. We even shot the video on a working farm, located on the Central Coast of California, an area where many Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl actually settled.”