Although he was born in Los Angeles, John Craigie is currently based in Portland, the City of Roses, a town he loves so much he decided to make an album about it and his life there. To which end, he gathered together a collection of local musicians, among them The Shook Twins and Gregory Alan Isakov, recording No Rain, No Roses in the living room of his own old Victorian house.
As such, No Rain, No Rose is a fairly loose and relaxed affair, several of the tracks ending with the musicians chatting and joking between takes, a nod to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s similar family affair, Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Musically, it nods to the folk troubadours of the 60s and 70s, strummed waltzing opener Virgin Guitar itself a song about the lifestyle of the travelling musician, its road and restlessness theme revisited on Highway Blood. Harmonica and banjo drive the bluegrassy gospel Broken, although a touch of Cajun is also clearly evident, while Rough Johns has a sort of Paul Simon New Orleans shuffle, as does the relaxed, easy rolling sound of Live With Less, with its snare percussion and slide guitar. By contrast, Bucket List Grandmas cranks up the electric guitar and boogie-woogie piano for a driving twelve bar blues a la Highway 61 Revisited.
The track listings on No Rain, No Rose are divided into Side One and Two, the latter kicks off with a dusty, lazing cover of the Stones’ Tumbling Dice, and, like that, what follows isn’t exclusively about Portland. The hoedownish banjo picked Michael Collins is a tribute to the Apollo 11 astronaut who never got to step on the Moon, an acknowledgement of the contribution made by those not in the spotlight as he sings “Sometimes we take the fame, sometimes we sit backstage, but if it weren’t for me them boys would still be there.” Then, with Bevin Foley providing aching fiddle, there’s the slow swaying song about home, I Am California. Sung in the voice of the state itself, the lines “So drink all my wine, cut all my trees, make love on my beaches, smoke all my weed. I am California can’t you see, wherever you roam, You’ll always want me.” A song that is basically saying you can take the man out of California, but you can’t take California out of the man.
No Rain, No Rose ends in classic 60s folk troubadour style with All The Salt, echoing the likes of Dylan’s One Too Many Mornings and the work of John Prine, Jackson C Frank and Townes Van Zandt. It closes with a good-time jamming feel, one that captures the informal ‘come on over and join in’ nature of the whole project. Consider yourself invited.
No Rain, No Rose is out now.
Order it here: www.cdbaby.com/cd/johncraigie13