Black Belt Eagle Scout
The Land, The Water, The Sky

(Saddle Creek)


This third album from Katherine Paul, who has been recording and releasing as Black Belt Eagle Scout since 2014, starts as it means to go on. The guitars on ‘My Blood Runs Through This Land’ burn with a sense of foreboding and the drums drop in and out, ratcheting up the tension in their absence and then lending to the sense of an epic to come when they return. It’s a suitably atmospheric kick off to an album rich with drama, one telling the story of Paul’s journey, in 2020, from her adopted home base of Portland, Oregon back to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, her ancestral land on Puget Sound in Washington State.

It would appear that she made two voyages in parallel, and presents them as such here; as well as following the road back to reconnect with her roots, one lined with the kind of natural beauty that a title like The Land, The Water, The Sky, she also walked a tumultuous inner path in terms of her relationship to her own mental health, at a time when a pandemic-stricken world was reckoning with its own trauma. Accordingly, we get moments that feel expansive, the sound of Paul’s horizons broadening as she imbues her indie rock templates with sounds from her native soil – ‘Sedna’ is a case in point, as is ‘Spaces’ – and others that are hushed, intimate and, as the album wears on, speak to a gradual reaching of a sense of peace with her place in the world (see ‘Treeline’ and ‘Understanding’). Closer ‘Don’t Give Up’ is the point at which the two roads meet, and by which we’ve heard Paul turn a turbulent few years into her finest body of work yet.