Wildfires, floods, quarantine and isolation, protests, riots, and raising children who are coming into awareness of these issues all influenced Jon Chi as he wrote the words and music to his 3rd solo album, River of Marigolds. “How do you take struggle and adversity and turn that into hope and love?” is a central question on the album, Chi says. The Marin County-based songwriter, guitarist, and producer coalesces disparate styles here that he has explored on prior releases. Chi’s lyrics, at times dark and moody and at others hopeful, meld with a musical blend of spacious Americana and psychedelic soul. Much of the album features Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on bass along with long-time rhythm collaborators John-Paul McLean and Jeremy Hoenig (Melvin Seals and JGB), Jordan Feinstein and Mike Emerson on keyboards, and pedal steel ace Dave Zirbel.
Jon is the former frontman for the band Rainmaker who found their fans among the jamband and world music scene. The band’s second album, Long Slow Fade, reached #2 on the jambands.com radio chart and featured Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Chi has gone on to create two solo efforts, Just For Now and Another Rising Sun which were more focused, songwriter-style records. “I love both of those styles, and I think we blended them together really well on (River of Marigolds). I feel like we’re adding a little something new to the conversation.”
While River of Marigolds is undeniably steeped in the challenges of today(“Toss us a tourniquet, send us a sage / We’ve been waiting on the wind to blow the other way”), it ultimately yields perspective and hope in lines like “She’s hanging on the hands of time, but don’t they have their way? / Let love and laughter rule your days” and invites you to “Raise a glass, come sing along / praise the earth that we’re all walking upon”. Chi started with 40 songs and culled them back to the 9 that were most cohesive. “There had to be an emotional thread that ran through the entire album,” he says. The second half of the album is connected with seamless segues and there is an inviting mix of atmospheric Americana (“River of Marigolds and “Sweet Surrender”), gritty rock (“Road to Revival”), and driving soul (“Got to Give the Devil His Due” and “Cold Clear Winter”).