By Samuel Cravey
Artist: Black Belt Eagle Scout
Album: Mother of My Children
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Black Belt Eagle Scout’s debut album, Mother of My Children, is a beautifully crafted collection of indie-rock songs with undertones of a distinct pacific-northwestern sound.
Black Belt Eagle Scout is the solo project of Katherine Paul, a talented multi-instrumentalist, feminist and proud queer Native American woman. Paul was raised in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, located an hour north of Seattle, Washington. From a young age, Paul was introduced to singing and dancing at powwows which left a profound spiritual effect on her music. Paul developed a taste for rock music and a desire to learn how to play the guitar and drums as a teenager, drawing inspiration from bands like Hole and pacific-northwest grunge powerhouse, Nirvana. After moving to Portland, Oregon to attend college, she soon became engrossed in the city’s vibrant music scene. This eventually lead to the honing of her craft, and the birth of Black Belt Eagle Scout. Listening to Mother of My Children is the sonic equivalent of a warm pair of ethereal hands tenderly clasping either ear, and gently drawing the listener into a meditative calm.
Mother of My Children is pieced together from her own personal heartaches and anguish for a damaged and withering ecosystem. Songs like “Soft Stud” detail the intricate frustrations inside an “open, overcrowded” relationship with the first woman she loved: “Always through and through, I see it in your eyes, Wondering if you want me, I know you’re taken.” The lyrics in “Soft Stud” give insight into a deeply personal experience and also offer a wider commentary about wanting the love of a specific person, while helplessly drifting away from them. There are also songs like “Indians Never Die,” with a confrontational, yet calm opposition to the typical, wasteful American and anyone that does not respect the earth: “Do you ever notice what’s around you? When it’s all right under our skin, wastin’, wastin’, wastin’ away.” Using her lyrics, she questions the government that is supposed to protect the Native American community and the environment all American citizens live in. A particularly beautiful track, “Yard,” seems to be about a specific memory of Paul’s with most the details omitted except for the setting, which was the yard. Instead, raw, opposing emotions like sorrow and compassion are blurred together through the use of gentle guitar melodies paired with Paul’s soft, melancholy coos creating an utterly surreal experience. Gradually, these sounds culminate into a flood during the last minute of “Yard” when tasteful drum rhythms and symbol crashes enter the soundscape completing the song.
Judging solely on the tones and moods the Mother of My Children brings to the table, it’s clear how cathartic and blissful the making of an album like this must be. Loaded with thick, driving bass lines, lively drum rhythms, delicate guitar melodies, and a stunning voice fit for a goddess, every song, no matter how mellow, carries an irresistible groove. At a glance, this album could be mistaken as sad or melancholy, but a closer look unveils an underlying theme of deep emotional healing. It is a special experience to have access to a particularly vulnerable chapter in someone’s life, and then to turn that vulnerability into an artistic strength is absolutely incredible. Mother of My Children is a top notch first album, and I dearly hope we get to hear more from Black Belt Eagle Scout.