Music: Magical Folk

Luke Temple hits all the right notes

By Charlie Swanson

There must be something in the waters of West Marin, for it seems lately that a new wave of up-and-coming indie rock artists are arriving and returning to their folk roots among the region’s rolling hills and foggy coastlines.

The latest transplant is Brooklyn singer-songwriter Luke Temple, who relocated to Point Reyes last year, and recently unveiled the stunning and eloquent folk album, A Hand Through the Cellar Door.

Temple will perform off the new album on Saturday, January 21, at ink.paper.plate in Point Reyes Station. Born in Massachusetts, Temple lived in Seattle briefly before moving to Brooklyn 10 years ago. He already had two critically acclaimed, though commercially unheard, folk albums under his belt when he switched gears and formed alternative indie pop band Here We Go Magic in 2009.

Temple’s rhythmically repetitive and often stream-of-conscious songwriting shined on Here We Go Magic songs that had crowds dancing for joy at major festivals around the world. In the last few years, Here We Go Magic underwent some lineup changes, and while the band is still performing occasionally, Temple’s main focus these days is his reinvigorated solo output.

Released last November, A Hand Through the Cellar Door finds Temple in full storyteller mode, crafting eight songs that explore family struggles, trace the lives of several fictional characters and wear emotions prominently on the sleeve.

Musically, the record is a patient, acoustic collection. Temple’s hypnotizing rhythms come through on tracks like opener “Estimated World,” in which a repetitive acoustic riff and minimalist backing drums, bass and organ slowly build. That unfolding sound appears again in the emotionally cathartic and impactful climax of “Maryanne Was Quiet.”

Other tracks, such as “Birds of Late December,” feature Temple’s lilting voice taking on delicate falsettos and hushed tones that remind one of a blend between Nick Drake and Paul Simon. All the while, Temple commands the listener’s attention with just enough off-kilter elements, such as the cellos and almost spoken-word delivery of “The Complicated Men of the 1940s.”

This record isn’t background music—it’s a powerful amalgam of socially relevant lessons wrapped up in distinctly personal stories.

Temple’s performance this weekend will also feature two other rising folk stars. From Portland, Oregon, songwriter MAITA employs intricate guitar fingerpicking and a sonorous voice on her forthcoming debut EP, Waterbearer. And Petaluma songstress Ismay matches her country-western aesthetic with an ethereal atmosphere in her promising demos and unforgettable live shows, such as her appearance at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.

Luke Temple, MAITA and Ismay; Saturday, Jan. 21; ink.paper.plate Studio & Shop, 11401 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station; 6:30pm; $10-$15 donation; 415/873.6008.

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