Tim Bluhm & The Coffis Brothers
In one brief, excruciating instant, Tim Bluhm’s life changed forever. The acclaimed songwriter was speed flying (a more intense version of paragliding) down a California mountainside when he lost control and crashed, snapping his ankle in half and shattering his pelvis. The daunting road to recovery required him to be bedridden for the better part of a year as he underwent more than a dozen surgeries, and it left the avid outdoorsman physically unable to perform even the simplest tasks for months. Rather than mourn the loss of his old life, though, Bluhm looked at it as a second chance, and from his hospital bed, he began writing songs again with a new appreciation for the rich world inside his own mind.
“It changed my outlook on life and it changed my whole self-image,” says Bluhm, a California native best known as a frontman for the legendary Mother Hips. “It was a humbling thing to be physically incapacitated like that, and it was a reminder of just how fragile we all are. In a way, I look at it as almost a nudge from some higher power telling me to look inwards and pay more attention to my musical gifts. I’m more grateful than ever to be alive right now.”
Bluhm began his musical journey roughly 25 years ago at Chico State, where he co-founded the now-iconic Mother Hips, a group the San Francisco Chronicle has hailed as “one of the Bay Area’s most beloved live outfits.” The group signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings on the strength of their debut album, ‘Back To The Grotto,’ and over the ensuing decades, released eight more studio albums and shared bills with everyone from Johnny Cash and Wilco to Lucinda Williams and The Black Crowes as they cemented their status as architects of a new breed of California soul.
He’s always drawn strength and inspiration from nature (rock climbing, surfing, and backcountry skiing have long numbered among his favorite activities), but the accident left him a prisoner in his own body for extended periods of time, physically unable to perform even the simplest tasks. Rather than mourn the loss of his old life, though, Bluhm learned to develop a new appreciation for the rich world inside his own mind.
“For the first three or four months, I couldn’t move,” he remembers. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t even roll over in bed because of my injuries. But as I got used to my new condition, my brain got back to its normal self and I realized I was able to start putting songs together again.” Bluhm signed with Blue Rose Music’s Joe Poletto from the hospital, and upon his release, headed into the studio to record the way he’d always wanted, free from the constraints of deadlines and budgets that had inhibited previous attempts at capturing the album. “It’s liberating to be on a label where you have whatever resources you need to make the best possible art that you can,” he reflects. “A lot of artists never experience that luxury. Even when I was on a major label, I didn’t feel the way I do now.”
Jamie and Kellen Coffis, born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, don’t tend to overthink their music. Nothing in their repertoire is overwrought or outstays its welcome. This is pure roots rock, focused on melody, harmony, rhythm and mood. There are echoes of The Byrds, Tom Petty and The Jayhawks, and from years of touring, they have honed their sound into shimmering, high-energy rock and roll. They’re positioned in a long line of sibling duos that stretches back to the Delmores, the Louvins, and the Everly Brothers.
On their third full-length album, Roll With It, The Coffis Brothers put that rock into overdrive, looking ahead to the good things coming and suffering no fools. First single “You Ain’t Got the Heart” is a barn burner and a fan favorite, having already been part of the band’s live set for a couple of years. “There’s a little bit of that sense of angst and that sort of ‘I don’t need this’ attitude,” says Kellen Coffis, “but don’t overthink this one.”
Not that there isn’t plenty to think about on Roll With It. Tracks like “Bad Luck” and “Better Days” reflect on how to live with and learn from rough times, while “You and Me” is a testament to how people can make it through these things together. But on every song, The Coffis Brothers & the Mountain Men stay true to a rock sound that draws from Southern grit and California hills.
Roll With It was recorded on analog tape over a week at Barefoot Studios in Hollywood with producer Andy Zenczak and engineer Cian Riordan. The band’s near-constant touring throughout California and elsewhere has earned them not only devoted fans, but lots of critical praise as well:
“The Coffis Brothers & the Mountain Men have developed a sound that has an easy rock vibe that’s actually hip.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“The Coffis Brothers mix a blend of folk, country and rock with the intensity of personal lyrics into a gritty and often tender harmony of sound… a show that delivers one part Avett Brothers and one part early Neil Young for a full night of dancing and fun.” – Santa Cruz Weekly
Jamie and Kellen are joined by Kyle Poppen on lead guitar, Aidan Collins on bass and Sam Kellerman on drums. Their debut self titled full-length album was released in 2011 and was followed by 2012’s Waiting For You EP and 2014’s Wrong Side of the Road.