SONIC REDUCER The cormorants know, the red-winged blackbirds have heard, and the quail would wail: the Marin Headlands and surrounding environs are imbued with more than a little magic. You don't need to spend much time there to know this, rolling through pebbly Rodeo Beach or tromping down Tennessee Valley Road, soaking up the sagey scents and painting the digits dark red with crushed blackberries, as little girls wander by talking on seagull-feather faux cellies.
They will testify, as will Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, a.k.a. ace Palace Brother, singer-songwriter, and star of Old Joy (2006) and Matewan (1987) to the area's healing properties and the way its fresh breezes, rippled clouds, and hills in every hue of green ignite the imagination. After all, until recently Oldham was squirreled away at the Headlands Center for the Arts as an artist in residence. In one of the few interviews he's consented to lately, Oldham told me he ended up doing much songwriting, including a commissioned piece with his Superwolf partner Matt Sweeney intended for a new Wim Wenders film.
"I felt super-fortunate," said the jovial, easygoing Oldham from Louisville, Ky., where he'd driven to from the Bay Area only three days previous. No matter that tornado warnings were all over the local media as he cast his mind back. "It was kind of a dream situation, because out there in the Headlands, there's no cell phone reception. And once you cross through that tunnel, you're in something you can imagine as wilderness and by the sea, and there's a fair amount of wildlife snakes and skunks and turkeys and deer and coyotes and bobcats and seals, which, if you choose to, you can see more of than you see any human being on any given day."
He'll be back in the Bay after touring Europe and playing a handful of US dates, ending in San Francisco. The occasion is Lie Down in the Light (Drag City), Oldham's worthy, rootsier follow-up to the transcendent The Letting Go (Drag City, 2006). If the latter is colored by the otherworldly ambience of its Icelandic origins, then the new album is touched by the tender humidity of its Tennessee recording site, encompassing, according to Oldham, "a couple songs that sort of address using terms of love, devotion, and even lust songs themselves."
"I think," he offered, "at the end of the day, sometimes it can be the truest form of comfort, especially if you're a singer. You can find in music just about any ideal emotional landscape you crave, whether it's angst or rebellion or celebration or union or dissolution. It's all there, and none of it's going to call you back or text you at four o'clock in the morning or blame you for anything you did or didn't do or slap you with a paternity suit."
Not that Oldham can speak on paternity suits. "My lawyer says I can't answer questions like that," he demurred mirthfully. Meanwhile there's some heavy weather to consider. "I do have a cellar," he said, not worried at all. "But I'm not the hiding kind. I want to see it if it comes. I think I can run faster than a tornado." *
KICKING, LICKING, GOOD
LOWER CLASS REVOLT
Kicking it blue-collar style, the comp celebration includes Rademacher, Tigers Can Bite You, and Light FM. Wed/25, 10 p.m., $4. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. www.theknockoutsf.com
Kicking it Krautrock, the Citay collaborator's Kranky release promises near-exotica grooves. Wed/25, 9:30 p.m., $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.
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