Longing for sun-baked beaches and leisurely family drives, Bob Sumner revisits a leftover from his 2019 debut long-player
Bob Sumner misses the West Coast of his youth.
With family whose roots run deep into southern California, he took countless vacations down the shorelines, frequenting the usual sandy spots like Laguna, Newport, and Huntington. Those beaches line his memory now, faint whispers of a time gone by, and sport a fresh coat of wistfulness in the form of his song “California,” originally recorded for Sumner’s 2019 debut, Wasted Love Songs. It’s a pensive number, calling to the musical twilight of Laurel Canyon with a smattering of Latin highlights, and emergers as among the Vancouver-based musician’s finest performances.
“Sitting here in this grey town / Wishing I could get gone / But I don’t got no money / Oh, how I wish I had some,” he sings, a heavy sigh hanging like grapes on the vine. “It’s been raining for ages / Last I saw the sun, she ducked behind the mountains / She headed south on the run.”
“‘California’ is a song I came by honestly,” offers Sumner about the song, premiering on Rock & Roll Globe today. “I often find myself staring out my window on a grey rainy Vancouver day. My mind wanders down the I-5 and my heart yearns for the sights, sounds, and smells of California in all of its vast glory.”
The glory, as Sumner remembers it, also banks hard on his unforgettable memories of visiting his grandparents, who lived only a few minutes away from Disneyland. “We’d watch the fireworks from their front yard every night. We’d drive the 45 minutes to the beaches to boogie board. The California girls, the beach bums 一 it was all so cool,” Sumner recalls. “We’d eat Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers or Taco Bell as we drove the busy freeways by the Hollywood sign. The smell of the rare rainfall on the warm pavement. It is all so powerfully nostalgic. My dad would favor the Latino radio stations which is maybe why we ended up with Mexican flavored accordion with nods to Flaco Jiminez on the song.”
“California,” out this Thursday (November 18), reads as a companion piece to the forthcoming “Broken Record,” slated for January 13 release. “These songs are not a second cousin or a little sibling to the rest of that record. They absolutely could have lived with ‘Wasted Love Songs.’ We had an optimal run time limit for our Vinyl and wanted our audio quality to represent the love we put into the record so we had to cut a couple tunes,” explains Sumner on why the pair of tunes were slashed from the record, a decision made alongside producer Erik Nielsen (Joshua Hyslop, Tegan & Sara).
“‘California’ and ‘Broken Record’ fit together like old friends; they’d be a perfect A and B side should we ever put out a 7 inch,” he continues. “While ‘Broken Record’ is a classic sad guy break-up song reminiscent of a 70’s Willie Nelson bar room ballad replete with honky tonk piano, pedal steel, and Spanish Guitar, ‘California’ lives somewhere between a rainy Vancouver and a down and out Hollywood, a la’ Warren Zevon’s ‘Carmelita.’”
“She said, ‘California, oh here I come / Oh, I’m coming for you / Adios, Vancouver, I’m gone,’” he sings, delivering a finality as sure as the sunset. With these musical and lyrical puzzle pieces fitted snugly into place, Bob Sumner’s “California” is much more than a mediation on his youth. In the purest sense, it’s a testament to our collective hunger to escape from the real world 一 with just enough emotive power to transport the listener entirely to another time and place, too.
Sumner launches an Adios Vancouver tour in December. Check out the tour dates here.