For Greta Gaines, adventurer, songwriter, extreme sports trailblazer, activist, mother, mentor, TV commentator and producer, composer and dreamer, making records seemed to be out of her system after the critically lauded Lighthouse & the Impossible Love. With so much to do, two boys to raise and a high profile role in the legalize cannabis world as an advisory board member of NORML and a face of Women Grow, she’d made an album of elegance and great songcraft – and was satisfied with a musical output that includes 1999’s alt-leaning self-titled debut, 2004’s Triple A standard It Was Hot and 2006’s Can’t Kill the Flavor, followed by the hard roots/Americana Whiskey Thoughts.
And then the election happened. As the first Women’s World Extreme Snowboard Champion recalls, “I was feeling like I was going mad right before the election, like maybe truly getting ready to lose my marbles. I was walking in the woods with my dog, and I kind of heard angelic voices saying, ‘Begin again…’ “The lyrics (to ‘Begin Again’) poured out… That was the inspiration I needed to let the flood gates open, to sit down and write all day and all night until the muses stopped speaking to me. A deep sense of agitation started the process, and it didn’t stop until the record was recorded, mixed and mastered – all within a few months.” Those seven songs mark some of Gaines’ most collected and evocative work. Pieces of Neil Young, traditional story songs, ‘60s girl groups through Nico’s sangfroid, world weary cowboy feels, mahogany vocals, bits of the Cowboy Junkies, Concrete Blond’s Johnette Napolitano, Laurel Canyon country, buoyantly jubilant garage rock all co-mingle on Tumbleweed in a heady mix of urgency and triumph. With stewardship from longtime musical collaborator Eric Fritsch, the two worked quickly, capturing the fraught nature of pure creation. Channeling the playing into a distillation of the unvarnished emotions under the surface, they dug in. From the earthy, meandering vocal of “Heal Me,” buoyed by a warm acoustic guitar and steady beat, to the austere yearn of break-up reckoning of “Only Lonely,” featuring longtime Bob Dylan steel guitarist Bucky Baxter, this is a record peeling back layers.
“Begin Again,” works a terse guitar, a murky musicality and dry bewitched vocal for a tension that evokes Katnis Everdean’s survival and emergence stronger and brighter; it’s a mirror of Gaines’ own live as your heart desires ethos. “Tumbleweed,” with its Crazy Horse guitars and a powdery vocal, offer a refuge in the chaos.
“I told my mother recently I was overcome with nostalgia, these ghosts from the distant past were popping up out of nowhere. I was confused, because I’ve never been one to look back. She said, ‘You’ve not been old enough until now to look back.’” “I hadn’t written a new song for years before this happened so violently and quickly – and out of nowhere. So the urgency was I didn’t want to lose any momentum once I started. I wanted to let out whatever was new and held up inside of me. I am emotionally toying with an unfamiliar new emotion.