Bolinas musician releases alt-country album on new micro label

10/19/2017

The “socially acknowledged and nature-loving town” of Bolinas is ever-present in singer-songwriter Jeff Manson’s new release “Wild Form,” but that is not all. The alt-country effort, released last month on a new micro label that Mr. Manson helped establish, invites listeners on an evening stroll through his Big Mesa neighborhood while contemplating larger themes. He incubated the songs while freewheeling about town with his infant son, Otis, inspired by such things as the chirping of frogs in the town’s sewer ponds. Yet it “feels impossible to me to ignore some of these heavier topics in the world,” he said last week outside his Bolinas cottage, which he shares with his singer-songwriter wife, Vanessa Waring. “How do you deal with them? I try to fold in as much humor as possible. Trump is in there, like it or not, as is Standing Rock.” Mr. Manson’s songs tend to be structured around the guitar, spruced with raspy vocals. His everyman voice did not go unnoticed by Bolinas artist Charlie Callahan, who played drums on the album. “He almost does a spoken word thing, but they’re definitely songs,” Mr. Callahan said. “They’re a mystery, whether or not you know what they’re about.” Mr. Manson, who has lived in Bolinas since 2006, hails from Ojai, in Ventura County (he described both towns as “mystical rural hamlets”). He works at Larner Seeds and the Bolinas Hearsay News; his weekly country show on KWMR, West County Prowl, unearths unsung country music treasures. He is also integral in his town’s happening music scene, organizing shows in living rooms or at the Gospel Flat Farm Stand and helping release albums from other West Marin musicians through the new Night Bloom label. “We thought we could do something that was really artist-first, flexible and small-scale,” he said of the label, which is co-run by musicians Kacey Johansing and Alex Bleeker. Ms. Johansing explained: “We thought, ‘Oh wait, we have this most amazing community, and why don’t we nurture this? Let’s stop being such babies and put our music out.” In its first year, Night Bloom released an album by Ms. Johansing and is working on a record by Bolinas folk artist Mariee Sioux. For Ms. Johansing, who now lives in Los Angeles, the musicians of West Marin exercise a relaxed approach to cultivating community. “One of the things I miss is how casually people would get together and play music,” she said. “There are all these opportunities to play laid-back shows. Everyone is excited to get together. Even when it’s thrown together, it’s homespun and there are babies running around.” To purchase “Wild Form” either digitally or on vinyl, visit jeffreymanson.bandcamp.com. He performs next with Ismay and Zeb Zaitz at a benefit for the Tomales Town Hall on Saturday, Nov. 4. The show takes place from 3 to 8 p.m.