WE’RE born of the good earth, and thence shall we return. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Mud to mud.
It’s that thick, wet, good earth of home that keeps up a siren song to songwriter Jamil Rashad, who trades in and around the musical frontier posts as Boulevards; time and time again he leaves the ruts and the puddles of North Carolina but, come one thing or another, he always pings back.
“I was born in the North Carolina mud,” he says. “That’s where I have my roots.
“I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York, but I keep coming back here. This is home. This is where I’ve learned the most.”
And now he’s making shapes to release a fourth album, Electric Cowboy: Born in Carolina Mud, which will be fully handed down to us come February.
Such announcements, as they do, come armed with a first taster of what’s in store; and he’s dropped the hip-grindin’, cinemascope funk rock of “Better Off Dead” – queue right here.
It’s got wah-wah, always what you need when the windows start to steam; it’s got pillowtalk, fatalistic candour; it’s got organ careering off with a Muscle Shoals vibe. It’s life as she is lived in the South, mechanic’s job to mechanic’s job, truck stop to truck stop, sudden bed to sudden bed, oily handprints on jeans.
“I wanted some of that dirt on this record,” Jamil confirms. “I’m leaving my footprint in that mud.”
He pulled together a posse of musicians including Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas and Colin Croom, from Chicago indie-rockers Twin Peaks. Slow cookin’ was the order of the day to bring the flavours out, with fragments and lyrics traded back and forth and a free sharing of ideas.
“In order to make the best record possible, I learned that I had to let go a little bit, which is hard,” Jamil says. “I had a vision that I was keen to realize, but I also wanted those guys to express themselves. They pushed me to do better, but they also pushed me to keep being myself.”
And of “Better Off Dead” a song of addiction featuring boy-girl call and response vocals from New West labelmate Nikki Lane?
“I wrote this song about coming off a week-long bender. What’s worse, the pain from the hangover or the comedown? So many times after my binges I would want to just want to kill myself and not be alive. After the pain I inflicted on myself I would just want to leave earth and not want to go through it.
“The same goes for the withdrawal from alcohol, I would have the worst migraines and the worst shakes from withdrawal. So I’d rather be ‘better off dead’ than deal with all this pain.”
Boulevards’ Electric Cowboy: Born In The Carolina Mud will be released by New West Records on February 11th and can be pre-ordered over at Bandcamp.