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I met Bart Budwig over glasses of whiskey before his raucous set at Pappy & Harriet’s, the storied roadside honky tonk in the California desert. A skilled sound engineer by trade and a tireless road dog at heart, he was perfectly at home sleeping out back in a tent that night and rolling out with his band at 5am the next morning, chasing the sun to his next gig. For Bart, the road is not an escape from his life in tiny Enterprise, Oregon, but a vehicle to dredge the reaches of his own psyche - the act of playing his songs night after night is catharsis through performance. He is running head-long into an exploration of humanity, loss, religion, and how to find humor in the things we struggle to talk about.
His new concept album (his 5th full-length record) Paint By Numbers Jesus is a meditation on Jesus as a cultural figure, and a walk through the mind of someone who is processing their place on the faith spectrum. It was inspired, partly, by Willie Nelson’s Redheaded Stranger, a group of cover songs, strung together tightly by Nelson originals, all coalescing on a theme. Budwig’s PBNJ showcases his arranging skills on Bobby Bare’s silly-yet-earnest “Dropkick me Jesus” turning it into a ska-tinged party. And he amps up Tom Waits’ irreverent “Chocolate Jesus” bringing it to a swamp-funky climax. His own writing poignantly holds the pieces together to form a whole - specifically Nebraska 2, on which his clear, affect-less voice rings through like a church bell at the top of the record.
PBNJ was recorded at the OK Theater, Budwig’s home-base and music laboratory. He manages the live sound for the venue, and records and mixes an array of other musicians in the lofty space. He mixed 12 albums there last year, one of them - John Craigie’s No Rain, No Rose - is currently topping the Americana charts.
Budwig has an extensive web of friends and collaborators across the Northwest, so when it came time to record this album he was ready to call on the best. - Kat Parker
Thanks to Ben Herndon (photography), Nancy Charles (artwork)
Lee Deaver (oil painting), Jason Oliveira (web design) Luke Zwanziger (video).
Copyright 2017 Bart Budwig. All rights reserved.