Slow burn from the Court & Spark

The Court & Spark

The Court & Spark

The best music sets a tone. The style of the music is almost irrelevant—it could be jazz or pop, hard rock or rap, metal or big band. The texture of the sounds, the rhythm and the way the sonic palette functions all combine in order to create a sense of environment. It is, in a sense, the same function that any great art serves: moving the viewer or listener to a new vantage point from which to view life.

Music is perhaps the most effective tool for prompting this kind of shift in awareness. It is effective because of its immediacy, because it can be absorbed instantaneously and because its emotional relevance can be felt with visceral intensity. A good band reminds the listener that music is in your heart, in your head and in your soul.

San Francisco-based quintet the Court & Spark is just such a band.

Simply put, the Court & Spark play American music and, as such, it is music with a slow, burning intensity and volume that belies its quiet moments. Take the band’s latest album as an example. The album starts with James Kim’s simple, mid-tempo beat—a beat that expands suddenly into a wash of Tom Heyman’s pedal steel, M.C. Taylor’s quiet, softly croaking vocals and acoustic guitar, and Scott Hirsch’s blues- and country-fired lead guitar. Onstage, the newest addition, bassist Dan Carr (formerly of Creeper Lagoon), brings the whole event into a sort of blurry focus. If you stepped back for a moment and thought it through, you might call the Court & Spark a country band, but if so, its music is unlike any country music you have ever heard. Perhaps if Low or Joy Division had made an album with the late Gram Parsons, it would sound like this.

Sandwiched last Thursday between the always-terrific Pet Sounds-inspired Lookyloos and solo headliner Tim Bluhm (of Mother Hips,, the Court & Spark took the stage and immediately brought Old Ironsides into a country filled with lonely travelers and distant sunsets. That landscape continued when Bluhm took the stage—finger picking his own lonely, space-traveling songs with an intensity that perfectly continued what the Court & Spark had started and that underscored both his own prodigious talents and the talents of the band that had preceded him. For all involved: bravo. More info at

Jackie Greene has had a big couple of months. First, he won a California Music Award for Outstanding Blues/Roots Album, beating out Dave Alvin, Tommy Castro, Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo, and Elvin Bishop. Next, he reported signing with Monterey Peninsula Artists, one of the premier booking agencies in the United States, particularly for roots-based acts. What does this mean for Greene’s Sacramento fans? It means that we’ll be seeing less of the ubiquitous singer, songwriter and bluesman on local stages and more of him hitting national stages. As always, there’s more news at Jackie Greene Band bassist Hence Phillips’ site: