Great Sand Dunes National Park Stars In Gregory Alan Isakov’s Video For “San Luis”

By: Bruce Warren, NPR Music

Singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov‘s new album, Evening Machines, showcases his emotionally evocative songwriting style; rich in narrative detail and beautifully contemplative.

Isakov was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He and his family immigrated to the States in the mid-1980s and settled in Philadelphia. As a teenager, he began touring and moved to Colorado to study horticulture. He self-released his debut album in 2003, and he’s built a following on a series of lush, honest, ethereal songs that embody modern folk, influenced along the way by Leonard Cohen and blues-folk musician Kelly Joe Phelps. Over the years, Isakov’s songs have appeared in a number of television shows. His songs often have atmospheric, cinematic qualities and while placements in shows like GirlsCalifornication and Rectify have served his career well, the recent use of “If I Go, I’m Goin” (from 2009’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere) on the final episode of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill Houseis a perfect example of how Isakov’s sense of narrative and quiet intensity can elevate a visual medium.

World Cafe is premiering the video for “San Luis,” a cut from Isakov’s new album. It’s a mesmerizing, sprawling road video beautifully shot by director Andy Mann, who filmed it with his fellow video and photography colleagues, Keith Ladzinski and Chris Alstrin.

In an e-mail, Isakov had this to say about the song:

“I started this song in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, a place I often draw from when writing. The song followed me around for about a year and finished itself in California, on the central coast. Andy called me soon after I had returned to Colorado and said he was shooting a short film about artists and wanted me to meet him at Great Sand Dunes National Park for a few days. Any chance I get to hang out with him, I’ll take. He, along with some other National Geographic photographers and friends were traveling the Southwest, documenting the artist’s process. We camped a couple nights and talked about writing, photography–and got caught in a gnarly sandstorm, our tents blowing away in the distance. It was a surreal and beautiful few days.

I reached out to Andy a few months back, to ask if we could use some of the footage for a video for the song. I wanted to make sure the landscape that we had experienced together made it in. I loved collaborating with him; he really is a master at what he does.”

The photography for “San Luis” is wondrously expansive and moody. It seductively captures the wide open sky above the Great Sand Dunes National Park, as well as the land and wildlife found there. The video opens on a shot of morning breaking, before following Isakov in his camper through the park. A campfire roars. A spectacular night sky twinkles brilliantly. As a banjo gently strums, Isakov’s pensive guitar pushes the song into stirring solitude.

“Weightlessness, no gravity. / Were we somewhere in-between? / I’m a ghost of you, you’re a ghost of me. / A bird’s-eye view of San Luis”

Simply put, the video for “San Luis” invites you in to a place that you never want to leave.