The Court & Spark “Bless You”

This pleasant, mellow, kind of country-sounding record is the first I’ve ever heard of The Court & Spark, and this was a case where I had to use the internet to determine the band name from the record name, “Bless You” – as well as figure out what that strange symbol on the cover is (it’s “&” – with an odd, deco-ish font). The record company is Absolutely Kosher, from San Francisco, and the label is chocolate brown with simple grey lettering. The band name and title is written so small on the spine it could fit on a vitamin pill. The photo on the front and back is of the sun rising or setting over desert mountains – the back could be a corny poster with an uplifting message. The front has what looks like a woodcut depiction of a large bird, like an eagle – it’s likely referring to something that I don’t know – because in itself it’s as meaningless as the album title, a phrase that I most associate with someone sneezing.

There is an insert with credits and the only place I can find the date: 2001. There are six listed members of the band, plus six other names with individual music credits. For all those people, the music is sparse and minimal, and the production pretty traditional  except for the drums and percussion which are really prominent and with a lot of personality. The band members are modestly without any instrumental or songwriting designation. Most of the singing seems to be by one guy (or it could be more than one) who has a kind of educated, boozy voice that sounds like he’s from the Midwest and moved around a bit, picking up inflections here and there.

On the third song, a woman’s voice comes in about halfway through (though she is subtly present on the first two songs) and for the first time I turn my head in the direction of the turntable to see if an otherworldly presence has been conjured. It has. Throughout the record, the acoustic guitars, the steel guitar, the silences and space, and the sometimes very familiar arrangements, the one thing that really stands out to me is this woman’s singing on roughly half of the ten tracks. I’m not working hard enough to pick up any of the lyrics, but if I return, it will be for the singing, so I might give the words a spin.



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