Black Belt Eagle Scout play their first Philly headliner at Johnny Brenda's - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Black Belt Eagle Scout, the indie rock project of songwriter Katherine Paul, took the stage Monday night at a dimly lit Johnny Brenda’s. They’re on tour promoting The Land, The Water, The Sky, a meditative tribute to Paul’s journey back to her homeland, the Swinomish Reservation in Washington state.

You can hear the Pacific Northwest landscape in Black Belt Eagle Scout’s soft, Earthy tones, gradual crescendos, and echoing harmonies. Paul’s guitar mimics natural sounds like the flowing of a centuries-old river, the swaying of cedar trees, and dawn’s rolling fog lifting from a valley. Though we were in a rock club, it wasn’t hard to feel transported far outside the concrete jungle of the city, to somewhere you could take a deep breath of fresh air.

Black Belt Eagle Scout | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

Between songs, Paul gave context to her reverence for the record’s subject matter. She wrote “Treeline,” for example, about a tree she kept noticing on long walks she’d take in the Skagit River valley. “Someone told me that meant the tree was noticing me, too,” she said. Paul learned to play music from her parents, whose voices are both featured on The Land. “My mom’s voice is a lot like mine,” she said, “but my dad’s voice is more powerful.” Listen to “Spaces,” a high point on the record’s B-side, to hear both of her parents’ voices, which she described in a press release as “my dad with his strong pow wow voice and my mom with her wholesome tone.”

The last time Black Belt Eagle Scout were at Johnny Brenda’s, they were opening for singer-songwriter and close friend Julia Jacklin. They’ll join Jacklin on tour again for a few dates in July, but the opportunity to headline Philly themselves was not lost on the band. I was glad to be among a devoted crowd, sizeable for a tough Monday show date, eager to devour The Land, The Water, The Sky live for the first time. Paul’s bandmates Claire Glass and Adobo opened the show with atmospheric live looping and lyrical themes of community and belonging, which fit the tone of Black Belt Eagle Scout’s set perfectly.

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