Joel Rafael has had a long life in music: After learning chords on a cheap guitar purchased in Tijuana, the singer-songwriter engrossed himself in the nascent California folk scene, spending the Seventies avoiding military service as he traveled up and down the West Coast. In 1981, he released his first album, and in the 1990s he released two more with the Joel Rafael Band. These caught the attention of Jackson Browne, who signed the group to his Inside Recordings, where it released one more LP – 2000's Hopper – before parting ways.
Rafael has since become unusually prolific, and this April, Inside shipped the first pressings of his new Baladista. Above, watch the video for the one of the record's most resonant tracks, "When I Go," a touching love letter sung from the perspective from a long-distance boo.
"This is a song about going away," Rafael tells Rolling Stone. "How we carry thoughts of our loved ones with us and leave memories behind us when we go."
"Joel Rafael's songs are filled with passion and compassion," Browne says. "Passion for social justice and compassion – for those among us who have to struggle for a place at the table of American prosperity. His voice is unmistakably his own, big, warm and strong and a conductor for the human emotions that connect us all."
Rafael closes May with a performance at Texas' Kerrville Folk Festival. He then plays two more shows in America – both at Westchester, New York's Clearwater Festival – before heading to Brighton to begin a U.K. tour that spans the end of June and beginning of July.