Jessica Raymond has gathered several musical influences since she arrived in the PNW: Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, the North Cascades and the Olympic Mountains. “I’ve spent a lot of the past couple years in the mountains,” says Raymond, singer-songwriter and guitarist for The Blackberry Bushes, an alt-folk progressive bluegrass trio based in Seattle. “It influences what I do. They stick with you.” In fact, Raymond attended Evergreen State College in Olympia and deemed her concentration “Music, Mountains and Mythology.”
That theme shines on The Blackberry Bushes love ballad “Mermaid.” You can almost taste the mountains-meet-the-sea saltiness with rolling waves of melodic banjo, a humming fiddle and Raymond’s Gillian Welch-meets-Dolly Parton vocals singing “I am Pleiades / You are Orion / You’re such an archer / And I’m really trying to shine in the corner of the sky / As bright as I can be / So you would look at me.”
After some band members departed last fall, The Blackberry Bushes — now Raymond, fiddler Jakob Breitbach (who played onstage with Bill Monroe when he was a wee 8 years old) and bassist Taylor Kent — have rearranged, recorded and released the EP Both Feet In this spring. One of the tracks, “I Am A Woman,” tackles a different kind of mythology. Raymond was inspired by the Coco Chanel quote “I’ve loved without being a woman made only for love.” The sentiment struck Raymond because, she says, “It’s not that you don’t want love, but so often women are encouraged to see that as the biggest thing that they have to offer. It’s only one part of our lives.”
This is a refreshing departure for a genre steeped in less-than-progressive tales about broken-down women, whether it’s the heartbreaking-but-passive voice of “Jolene” or the murder of Polly in “Pretty Polly.” For the upcoming “I am a Woman” music video, The Blackberry Bushes have put out a call to all their female fans to submit home movies of themselves conquering obstacles, whether that’s graduating school, crossing finish lines or, of course, climbing mountains (for more info, see theblackberrybushes.com).
The Blackberry Bushes play 8:30 pm Saturday, April 20, at the Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove; $7. — Alex Notman