Tim Bluhm

Vagabond Rocker

Tim Bluhm     Photo: Jeff Lipsky

Tim Bluhm lives in a 1995 Chevy Sportvan, but don't let that throw you: The lead singer of the San Francisco band the Mother Hips has still managed to release nine albums, play more than 2,000 concerts, and build a cultish fan base—all the while stringing together a life of wilderness rambles that are as much Jack London as Jack Johnson. He tramps up and down the Golden State, skiing Mount Shasta, free-soloing Tuolumne Meadows' Cathedral Peak, surfing the cold Northern California coast, and telemark-skiing the Sierra. This summer, he broke a 14-year concert streak and worked as a climbing guide in Yosemite. With a sun-soaked sound that blends Merle Haggard with the Beach Boys, Bluhm pitched his tent on a plot of California's imagination and has been singing into the roar of the bulldozers ever since, a self-proclaimed "time-sick son of a grizzly bear" along the lines of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, with a similarly loyal following. In February, lines formed around the block in San Francisco for the premiere of Stories We Could Tell, a feature-length documentary about the band. This month, Bluhm releases California Way, a two-day session that Fog City Records producer Dan Prothero calls a "love letter from and about a disappearing place." Reached by cell phone on a highway in the Sierra, Bluhm admitted that if he'd hit the jackpot ten years ago, he "probably would have just spent it all. Now," he said, "I'd buy a better van. Or at least get my brakes fixed."

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