Where do songwriters come from? There are no schools, no job training programs. Songwriters, it seems, are made of two things: time and place. First, of course, is time--time to soak up life’s experiences, to taste the joy and bitterness, love and longing that the world offers. Songwriters are also carved out of place. From Woody Guthrie’s windswept Oklahoma to Townes Van Zandt’s Texas Hill Country, the notion stamps songwriters with an indelible mark. For Bart Budwig, his place is Idaho and with the release of his brilliant new album, Whisky Girl, his time is now.
Bart grew up in the Palouse, the wild, rolling hill country that describes the border between north central Idaho and eastern Washington State. The area is full of nature’s wonders, with wide open, sprawling skies, gently undulating hills and seas of waving wheat, grasslands and fields of hops and grapes. With its inviting, unhurried feel, gorgeously sublime melodies and easy confidence, Whisky Girl has that tangible sense of place that separates the good songwriters from the great ones. And with lyrics that speak of hopes and heartbreaks, Whisky Girl announces a talented, nuanced songwriter with a direct line to the hearts of listeners.
With two highly regarded EPs and a history of sharing the stage with the likes of Rocky Votolato, Joe Pug, Laura Gibson, Matt Pond PA and Sera Cahoone already to his credit, Whisky Girl is Bart’s first full length album, but his music is instantly familiar and from the very first song, instantly likable. “My songs are very emotional and personal,” Bart says. “They are honest and intimate. I can’t help but write that way and it means a lot when people connect. I want my songs to show how human I am and I think people can really connect with that.”
A lifelong musician, Bart grew up playing brass but switched to guitar after realizing that he couldn’t sing and play trumpet at the same time. “The first song I learned on guitar is “Big Blue Sea” by Bob Schneider. After that I wrote a song and within one week performed at an open mic. I’ve been writing songs ever since.” On Whisky Girl, Bart has enlisted the likes of Jay Kardong (Sera Cahoone/Son Volt) on pedal steel, John Nuhn (David Robert King) on bass as well as members of the Spokane’s up-and-coming Horse Thieves. Thanks to Bart’s experience as a sound engineer, Whisky Girl sounds warm and immediate with songs that gently wrap themselves around the brain and refuse to leave.
Bridging the gap between the wide-open sprawl of classic Americana, the insightful observations of folk and the grit and honesty of authentic country, Whisky Girl is both a powerful statement and a great listen.
Bart’s songs are highly evolved, utterly natural and unwaveringly human, incorporating themes of loss (“A Coke and a Smile” is about the passing of his mother), longing (“Whisky Girl” is about a lover moving to Texas) and even a cover of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”. “Sometimes I write songs driving through the mountains of Idaho, just singing in my car,” Bart says. “I love it. I believe that it is beautiful and honest. I love lyrics. I love when music breaks my heart. I’m not here to change the world or to make something that no one has ever done before. My goal is to make timeless and beautiful music that is honest; that people can connect with; that they might stop for a moment and realize how beautiful life is. Maybe even a few tears will fall.”