As the standard thunk-ditty of old-time slouches toward relative obscurity in this year of our Lord 2017, solace is sought via groove over hymnal, salty ocean over fiery lake, windswept desert over Paradise garden.
God made the Earth in seven days. Bart Budwig made his newest record in 14 hours.
This is not to imply that the Idaho raised alt-country singer likes to rush things — au contraire, he is a deft and purposeful songwriter, audio engineer and multi-instrumentalist — but rather that his contribution to American music is one of holistic efficiency.
In 2016 alone Budwig packed in an astonishing 150-plus shows, dragging himself down highways and alleys, through bars and venues of all shapes and styles, beholding the nation that helped shape his art and never once losing sight of himself.
This month he’s back to work, touring in support of his latest release. Paint By Numbers Jesus, Budwig’s fifth album, is a meditative Motown-esque journey through religion as a consumerist staple.
To shed some holy light on the matter, Budwig has described himself as a religious person, albeit one caught between channels. He does not believe that religion need maintain a stiff upper lip, nor does he view it as something to be consistently lampooned.
The record contains a number of somber swampy tunes in which Budwig explores himself and his own ongoing confusion surrounding religion. Sharp moments are expressed in songs such as “Age Of Reason,” the refrain of which seems to lament the emotional limitations of logic: “Jesus Christ/ this is the age of reason/ ain’t that nice/ I ain’t got no feelings.”
While self-exploration remains a theme throughout the record, the overall package does not lack fun. In a March interview with Nativen, Budwig reminded us that his sillier, more derisive tunes (“Chocolate Jesus,” “Dropkick Me Jesus”) should hold a mirror to the aforementioned stiff-upper-lippers.
“Those are great satires,” he says of his less serious tunes. “If you are Christian, you should be able to listen to those songs and laugh. They shouldn’t offend you. I don’t think so.”
So, yes, it may be a year of (de)evolution, depending on who you are. But here at last we are handed a choice — will you stop and think about Jesus, or will you bite his head off again?
Bart Budwig plays with Caitlin Jemma and Rebecca Connor 9 pm Thursday, May 18, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $7. — Andy Valentine