R.M. Isaiah’s San Francisco Sound is Magically Tragic

Exploring the music of R.M. Isaiah this morning has been a rich experience full of serendipity for me. I’d like to write a bit more about this, but I’m still reeling, and there’s too much I need to tell you about this great artist.

As you listen, you may find yourself comparing R.M. Isaiah‘s voice to the voice of legendary singer songwriter Tom Waits, and there are similarities. The amount of gravel in their throats for instance, is nearly the same. But there’s something softer about R.M. Isaiah and somehow more accessible. Less complicated, but no less poetic.

Your body I know is a wise man

A pawn in my collection of friends

There are books about Tom Waits, and I’m not going to try to sum up his style or his work here in a few sentences, but although truth lurks and snakes inside his songs, they are often performances, performance pieces. Tom Waits is a master at creating a cast of characters that strut and crawl across the stage of his songs.

But R.M. Isaiah is doing what Tom Waits was so floored by Dylan doing. He’s sitting down with the guitar and telling a story. There’s no circus. Isaiah is not a caricature of himself. Meanwhile High Witness, the band that Isaiah is a part of and who he recorded Master and Margarita with, creates the perfect bed for Isaiah’s voice to lie in. There’s no distraction. The first chord is so lush, for a second I thought I was going to be listening to a jazz tune, and even the shimmering cymbal crashes support Isaiah’s voice. Nothing gets in the way. There is one personality here, making music that’s earthy, mysterious, and immediate.

If you click through on the cover of the evocatively titled Numbers Have Their Way and visit R.M. Isaiah‘s bandcamp page, you’ll be able to listen to and download the digital album. I urge you to do this.

The song Master and Margarita intrigued me before I even heard it, because just as I was about to read the title my gaze slid across the screen and landed on the song’s label. It had been marked True Fiction.

You ask my about my trip to the labyrinth

But I can’t think of nothing to say

And that’s the only lie I heard. R.M. Isaiah has plenty to say, and I plan on listening.

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