As folk as any alternative musician and as alternative as any folk artist, singer/songwriter Gregory Rawlins is tougher to pin down than a feral cat.
His inventive compositions, austere command of language, and homegrown honesty translate to what one coined as, “Alternatively Bestial Truck- stop Folk.” While his subject matter falls somewhere between the natural reverence of the incorruptible John Denver and the profound introspection of Leonard Cohen, Rawlins’ playing style courts quick, jangly, Guthrie- like strumming and delicate alternating thumb finger picking that recalls a Southern country/blues tinge of Townes Van Zandt or R.L. Burnside– beneath it all is a genuine American poet whose words are as whittled from the sturdy oak of folk tradition as they are tempered by the modern-day skyscraper.
One among a close-knit group of musical comrades in La Grande, Oregon, Rawlins’ prolific career has seen a wide spectrum of genres, bands, and recordings– ranging from the carnal and raucous Sons of Guns, the lulling ballads of Foxgloves, the dark, experimental forays of Catskills, and finally his own solo work. After five self-recorded, self-released solo albums to much acclaim among his artistic contemporaries, Rawlins gears up to release ‘Blackjack Pennsylvania’ – his sixth solo effort and first on the newly formed label Junkerdash Records– spearheaded by Travis and Ali Ward of Boise’s lauded trio Hillfolk Noir. The record also features an array of fine musicians about the region, including Elizabeth Venable (Sad Horse, Fronjentress), Curt Krause (Edmund Wayne), Mike Surber (Sons of Guns, Foxgloves), Hillfolk Noir, and Mike Coykendall, respectively.
Blackjack Pennsylvania plays out like a bundle of postcards— each sailing from some memoryville or daydreamtown. Such as memories, daydreams morph and distort; gain odd shapes, sprout wings, grow horns, and a enjoy a brief life of delusion. This semi-autobiographical collage of parcels finds itself addressing both the prehistoric lover and spun-out entrepreneur with equal reverence. It calls on stabilized moods to shed their capsules and puncture the unmistakable zit of surveillance— and for us to laugh as hard at ourselves as we do the world.
At its core, it is a fierce examination on the majesty, absurdity, and resilience of the the beautiful human spirit.