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Hear Nicki Bluhm’s Resilient New Song ‘To Rise You Gotta Fall’

Title track to her upcoming album, recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, is a blast of Memphis soul

As leader of the Gramblers, Nicki Bluhm spent a decade resurrecting the sounds of California’s roots-music glory days. She was like a West Coast ambassador, her music caught halfway between the festival-friendly twang of Workingman’s Dead, the countercultural poise of the Laurel Canyon folk scene and the coed, harmony-heavy swoon of Fleetwood Mac.

She retools that sound with this summer’s To Rise You Gotta Fall, a solo album that finds the singer stepping away from both the Gramblers and her San Francisco home. Now an adopted Tennessean, she spent a pair of years writing songs in Nashville before heading to Memphis, where she recorded To Rise You Gotta Fall at Sam Phillips Recording studio. The result is an album of sepia-filtered soul, rooted in songs about old ends, new beginnings and the lessons learned from her split with former bandmate Tim Bluhm.

“What doesn’t kill you makes your story longer,” she sings during the title track, whose lyrics preach a sort of rolling-with-the-punches resilience. Joining her on the song are a handful of fellow road warriors, including St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ keyboardist Al Gamble, Bob Dylan’s touring guitarist Will Sexton, and former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. Recorded live and captured in analog sound, “To Rise You Gotta Fall” makes its premiere today on Rolling Stone Country, kicking off a multi-month promo cycle that includes shows alongside the Wood Brothers, a summertime schedule of festival appearances and an album release on June 1st.

“It was the very first song we tracked,” Bluhm says of the new single, “and Ken just started playing the groove and the band slowly started to drift in. Ken is such a present musician, and he’s listening to the words and reading the room and the vibe. . .There’s a line in the song that says, ‘I went looking for some perspective, so I knocked on my mama’s door,’ and he just hit the drum – the rim – like a knock, which brought a playfulness and lightness to the song. I love Will’s guitar playing, too. It’s so understated, but he makes himself known. It’s like the old saying goes: ‘The young bull charges down the hill, but the old bull takes his time.’ These musicians were tasteful; they’re all old bulls full of experience and class. Having a string section arranged by Sam Shoup was the icing on the cake. Memphis had melted into my California soul.”

Bluhm wrote all but one of To Rise You Gotta Fall‘s 11 songs, co-writing two tracks with Ryan Adams, with whom she performed shows in 2017, including an appearance at Telluride Bluegrass Festival. To Rise You Gotta Fall is available for preorder now.

Here’s Bluhm’s upcoming tour dates: 

April 11 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue*
April 12 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre*
April 13 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 14 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre*
April 15 – Saint Louis, MO @ The Pageant*
April 17 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Ballroom*
April 18 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark*
April 19 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue*
April 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Bijou*
April 21 – Brevard, NC @ Songsmith Gathering
April 22 – Charlotte, NC @ Tuck Fest
May 27 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Meadowgrass Music Festival
May 28 – Aspen, CO @ Belly Up
May 31 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
June 1 – Eagle, CO @ Bonfire Brewing Block Party
June 2 – Taos, NM @ Music on the Mothership
June 3 – Flagstaff, AZ @ Hullabaloo
June 5 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
June 7 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
June 8 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
June 10 – Crystal Bay, NV @ Crystal Bay Club Casino
June 12 – Chico, CA @ Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
June 13 – Arcata, CA @ Humbrews
June 14 – Eugene, OR @ HiFi
June 15 – Portland, OR @ Dog Fir Lounge
June 16 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
July 13 – Atlanta, GA @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens
July 14 – Charlotte, NC @ Knight Theater
July 19 – Scranton, PA @ Peach Music Festival
July 20 – Alexandria, VA @ Hamilton
July 22 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
July 25 – Floyd, VA @ FloydFest
July 25 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
July 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
July 29 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley

*With the Wood Brothers

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