On my way to Mount Vernon, I queued up some music on a day during which the weather had varied from monsoon to beautiful blue sky. It was one of those Pacific Northwest spring afternoons where we experience all the seasons within 4 hours. I wasn’t looking forward to battling traffic at the roundabout construction near Gibraltar Road and State Route 20, and I was going over problems at work in my head. The busyness and sensory overload typical of our daily grind was enveloping my consciousness like a fog.
Then the sound began. I’m a backpacker, and some of my favorite memories of the trail include the quiet shade at a hollow on the path, where a small waterfall spills down a hillside through a rocky swale. It was a reminder of a place to remove your boots, soak your aching feet, and pump some of the best cold, clear water in the whole wide world into your Nalgene bottle and take a good long drink.
Josh Clauson‘s music is like this. “Driftless” is meditative, clear, and unfiltered – exonerating us to forget about the urgent but unimportant details of life, and focus on the real. Farmhouses that have been in the family since 1880, the comfort of a porch swing, the companionship of loved ones, maybe with an old dog curled up at our feet.
Josh, a longtime member of the band Flowmotion, has over the years compiled a back catalog of intimate, acoustic compositions that don’t exactly fit the band’s repertoire. He and his wife, Genevieve started their lives together a few years back and they formed a songwriting team. Josh would come to the table with a few riffs and some basic words, then encourage his spouse to help him fill out the lyrical content. It worked, and “Driftless” is the shared accomplishment of the Fir Island couple.
The songs on “Driftless” are structurally free-form, with generally light acoustic instrumentation featuring Josh’s nice fingerstyle guitar with open tunings and droning pedal tones. But his voice is the instrument that pulls along the rest of the enterprise. At once I heard the stylings of James Taylor coupled with the resonant melancholy of the early Nick Drake. Several songs are nicely accented with the vocal backups of the Shook Twins, based out of Portland, as well as contributions from the members of the Bellingham-based band Polecat on cello, violin, and guitar, some of who also achieved production credit for their efforts.
“Driftless” is dream-folk with a rural, meditative feel, but with the social consciousness gleaned from Genevieve’s experience as an immigration lawyer. It invites us to turn off the mind and think about what’s important. Driftless is a koan of sorts: a gentle, insistent plea to reset our frame of mind. It implores us indirectly to abandon, if only for a few moments, the world of schedules, technology, and online only interaction.
Josh and his wife have engaged with a Los Angeles agency “Shoot The Noise“, which will be an opportunity to promote the music on “Driftless” to the film industry. These songs are perfect interludes for an extended cinematic shot. I immediately thought of soundtracks similar to that which was featured in the movie “Into The Wild”.
Given how busy Josh is, it’s amazing to consider that he also is the driving force behind the Summer Meltdown festival, held in Darrington, Washington from August 2nd through the 5th of this year. In addition to Josh’s band Flowmotion, an impressively large and talented lineup has been assembled. It’s the Bumbershoot of Northwest Washington – except with camping.
It’s fitting that this festival unites Josh and Genevieve’s twin passions for the rural life with their drive to create great music.
Upcoming shows for Josh and friends:
Guemes Island Store Guemes Island, WA April 14th (with friends) 7-10 PM, admission $8, children free.
Anelia’s Kitchen LaConner, WA May 12th 7 PM