Singer/songwriter John Craigie has been everywhere, but his latest record takes him back to his new home base in Portland, Oregon. His affable character and quick wit make his live shows true entertainment, as I saw over a year ago. Each performance deftly moves from engaging story to poignant song. Seriously- spend ten minutes with this guy and you feel like you have somehow known each other for years. And that’s what’s so genuine about Craigie: He draws people in as a performer and as a person. Needless to say, I was excited about his new record, No Rain, No Rose.
Some of John’s storytelling skills have undoubtedly been honed by the road, and John spends over half his year on the road. He’s been traversing The States (and beyond) for years, picking up loyal listeners with his earnest music and endearing personality. Hailing from California originally, Craigie set out as a true troubadour years ago, touring and living on the road for an extended time playing gigs and even festivals like Burning Man. His touring eventually brought him through Portland, which cultivated his eventual move and settling into that community. This move is well-reflected in Craigie’s latest record, which was released this past January.
No Rain, No Rose is an album that feels like it is taking root. For Craigie that means a much more fleshed out sound compared to his previous, more stripped-down recordings. Beyond this, No Rain, No Rose is also packed with friends including members of Fruition, The Shook Twins, Gregory Alan Isakov, Brad Parsons, Bevin Foley (of Trout Steak Revival), Kat Fountain, Bart Budwig, Justin Landis, John Nuhn, and Niko Daoussis. From his old Victorian home’s kitchen, Craigie told me in a recent chat that he would call out players to jump in on tracks.
“We recorded inside the house I live in. All my housemates were there cooking dinner between takes, we set up in the living room, and people came by when they could and sat in on songs.”
These living room vibes fit Craigie well, and with the extended audio, the album has a sense of an intimate house party. It’s like your friends set down their glasses, picked up an instrument and created something so good it feels like it’s somehow yours as well. This style also gives the album some of Craigie’s classic levity.
The heart of No Rain, No Rose comes from the title track. Maybe the most personal song of the album, it’s a fully realized lament and celebration of embracing what is hard: “We need the bad things to make the good things, I know/And I hear them singing, ‘No rain. No rose.’”
"I really wanted to write a response to Portland after living here for a couple of years. All the songs that had been written in my time here.” Craigie told me.
Themes of the road, relationships, and aimlessness show an artist processing his past and looking forward to what is ahead. This record is a true reflection of community, with each song feeling like it has a life of its own while still feeling like a cohesive part of the record. Drawn out vocals and haunting melodies are captured in songs like “I Am California” and “Savannah,” with the the former including some lovely harmonies with Boulder’s own Isakov. Other songs like “Bucket List Grandmas” and “Michael Collins” are filled with strings, and give the feeling of a packed bluegrass jam. The whole vibe of the 13-song record takes real life and makes it just a little more pretty.
You can see John Craigie in Denver TONIGHT Thursday, March 23rd with Holly Lovell at The Walnut Room at 8PM. He has another Colorado gig in Pueblo at Songbird Cellars this Friday the 24th at 730PM. Make sure to keep up with Craigie’s continuing life on the road here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.