Black Belt Eagle Scout: The Land, the Water, the Sky Album Review

Katherine Paul, who performs under the nickname Black Belt Eagle Scout, learned to play the drums with her family’s drum group, the Skagit Valley Singers. Years later, her dynamic percussion infuses her third album, the intimate The earth, the water, the sky, with frictionless momentum. Sometimes, Paul attacks his team with abandon; elsewhere, a steady beat slowly turns into a rolling boil. All at once or slow and steady: Both approaches evoke urgency and the need to escape. It’s time for Paul to go home. The earth, the water, the skyis an intimate survey of Paul’s rocky COVID-era return journey from Portland to his ancestral lands in the Swinomish Indian tribal community and the hard-won peace he found once he arrived.

If home is where the heart is then every song on The earth, the water, the sky— which is carved in the same cinematic style, anything but the indie rock style that Built to Spill perfected a generation ago — is a heartbeat variation. There’s the galloping beat of “Nobody,” a charged but upbeat track where Paul, sounding more confident than ever, reduces the lack of indigenous representation in the arts to a simple, no-nonsense statement: “Nobody sang it for my. as if I wanted to sing it for you.” The pulse races on “Fancy Dance,” an energetic and cheeky song that features a racing guitar melody that sounds like a crush on the brink of reciprocity. “Last night/I’ll ​​always remember you,” Paul practically sighs, before getting to the kick: “Lying there, naked.” If this is flirting, she’s very good at it.

Paul is most vulnerable in “My Blood Runs Through This Land”. The album opener pays tribute to his ancestors by recording the feelings he encounters as he wanders his homeland, dipping his toes in the water at Snee Oosh Beach and paddling across Similk Bay: “We like to see our Bright future and/I know you speak through me/I feel it in the sound of the water/touching all the rocks I feel.” There is horror in his town’s story, which Paul brings to life with distorted guitars and ominous, aggressive percussion, reminiscent of the biting sound of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”. (That song was also, in part, about crimes committed against the people of a country.) But there’s also peace and beauty, and all that fuzziness and buzz still can’t drown out Paul’s bright, delicate voice.

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A faint echo of pow wow singing, intertwined with fiddle, forms the backdrop for the melodious “Spaces.” Paul’s open, reverberating sound suggests a sense of possibility and the breadth of the story, while songs like the smooth, beautiful “Salmon Stinta” and the sprawling “Sedna” ground his music in specific places. But The earth, the water, the sky it is more than a simple portrait of a place. During a period of collective trauma, Paul sought healing and found it in the many connections he forged at home: with his ancestors, his parents (who lend their powerful voices to the “Spaces” chorus), and nature. These are love songs to a community and lineage that taught Paul how to survive.

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Black Belt Eagle Scout: Land, Water, Sky

Black Belt Eagle Scout: Land, Water, Sky

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