kelly blair bauman - band photo

Kelly Blair Bauman is clearly not in it for the money, but if you take into account his compelling back catalog (which may include one or two art records) and his stunning reinvention as a country-/folk-rock troubadour on his new album Gomorrah, the Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter is surely richer than most. Gomorrah is by no means a logical next step for Bauman; on the contrary, it's a plank walk of heartfelt balladry, breezy jangle, and sadly beautiful waltzes from a man best remembered as vocalist/guitarist for Northern California noise-pop heroes Deathstar and the North Magnetic. But where primary influences on those earlier bands were skronky stalwarts Archers of Loaf and Polvo, Gomorrah reveals warm and wooly nods to Gram Parsons-era Byrds and the gentler moments of certain Richard Buckner records. It's quite a shift in sonic fashion, but anyone familiar with Bauman's gift for original adaptation won't be surprised at how well the new sweater fits.

Gomorrah represents a turning point for Bauman as a vocalist and lyricist - his voice more lilting and angelic than ever. Punchy moments arrive early and often on Gomorrah: The twangy "I Made It Up" is fit for a sunny Saturday afternoon hoedown, while the glorious "I Saw Stars" revels in 12-string guitar chime and subtly echoed vocals. The album's second half is more subdued, anchored by the spooky "Grace" and the heavily layered, trumpet-inflected "Sorry Tries", a song that sounds like changing weather on the high plains feels.

Gomorrah's striking artwork and painstakingly assembled packaging underscores the music's rural scope. Even before you hear a note, this is an album that looks tailor-made for drives in wide-open spaces. Beyond that, Gomorrah's striking production, inspired playing, and sharp songwriting provide a convincing argument that its destroyed namesake city may have actually been someplace in the American West. Bauman suggests, "I suppose the album title is a reference to a lost city that fatally choked on its own excess - which these days could be anywhere."

reviews for this artist

'The feel of Gram Parsons without being at all derivative, it's at once So-Cal beach music and No-Cal backwoods balladry'
-- CD Baby

'Gomorrah floats on seas of dreamy, rustic Americana. It's an understatement to say Bauman is one of-if not the - most underrated songwriters in Portland'
-- Portland Mercury