If you go

What: Cracker, with Jaime Wyatt

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Bend Memorial Clinic Munch and Music, Drake Park, 777 NW Riverside Blvd., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: www.munchandmusic.com

It’s been 25 years since David Lowery called California home, but the state is still on his mind.

Lowery has released three albums in the last two years with strong ties to California, where he formed Camper Van Beethoven and later Cracker and helped launch the now-ubiquitous country-rock genre in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The most recent of these releases is Cracker’s 10th studio album and first in five years, “Berkeley to Bakersfield.” The double album examines the two opposing musical styles that shaped Cracker in its early days, and is split between the punkier “Berkeley” disc, which feature’s Cracker’s 1993 lineup, and the pure West Coast country on “Bakersfield.”

The album was at least partially written and recorded at the same time as the last two Camper Van Beethoven records, “La Costa Perdida” (2013) and “El Camino Real” (2014). These two albums take on geographic themes from Northern California (“La Costa”) and Southern California (“El Camino.”)

“We (Camper Van Beethoven) were trying to decide which (songs) to record, and we split it up, north to south,” Lowery said recently, while driving with his kids from Georgia to Virginia.

“At the same time, we (Cracker) were doing ‘Berkeley to Bakersfield,’ so now we’re dividing the state west to east. Now I’m in my Joan Didion phase; I’m doing sort of location-based song essays. … So the north and south is divided, on the Camper records, geographically, and also with the Cracker records, stylistically and to a certain extent politically. There’s sort of a lefty protest sort of thing through the ‘Berkeley’ disc, while the ‘Bakersfield’ disc is a little more apolitical.”

Lowery has called the East Coast home for the past 25 years, and currently lives in Georgia. He has taught in the music business certificate program at the University of Georgia business school alongside former Sugar bassist David Barbe and others for the last four years.

But Lowery is still a frequent visitor to the West Coast, of course. The current lineup of Cracker heads back west this weekend, and will kick off the Munch and Music free concert series at Drake Park in Bend on Thursday before tackling Washington and East Coast dates.

Since the recording of the “Bakersfield” disc, Cracker on tour has consisted of Lowery and founding guitarist John Hickman, along with bassist Bryan Howard, drummer Coco Owens, keyboardist Thayer Sarrano and pedal steel player Matt “Pistol” Stoessel.

However, the “Berkeley” disc is notable for featuring original Cracker bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Michael Urbano alongside Lowery and Hickman — the same lineup featured on Cracker’s 1993 sophomore album, “Kerosene Hat.” This group recorded together for the first time in two decades on the “Berkeley” disc after reforming for a number of shows around the 20th anniversary of “Kerosene Hat.”

“We went in the studio to see if we could come up with a few tracks together, and basically we came out with that entire disc,” Lowery said. “It was sort of a surprise. In three days, we came up with that entire disc, and I wouldn’t expect that.”

Lowery calls the Athens, Georgia-based group that recorded “Bakersfield,” and is currently touring as Cracker, an “Americana all-star band.” While the group tackles all of Cracker’s eclectic back catalog, Lowery said the focus on country after the “Bakersfield” disc has helped put that side of the band’s personality in the spotlight.

“We sort of managed to get ourselves onto the Shaky Boots Festival, this big country festival down in Atlanta,” Lowery said. “I think a lot of people that just sort of know us from our alt-radio hits think that’s what we are. Our fans clearly know what we do, but this is sort of helping get (the country side) across more to sort of the general public. When we started this, the first thing we did after the album, for promo, a month before the album came out, we had a couple tracks streaming on Rolling Stone’s country website. That’s definitely a little different approach for us, to sort of put that forward.”

It’s not an approach Lowery would ever have dreamed of taking when Cracker’s first few albums were released in the early ’90s. Both records — 1992’s self-titled effort and 1993’s “Kerosene Hat” — are now considered classics of the alt-country genre, spawning some of the band’s best-known songs, including “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” from the first album and “Low” from “Kerosene Hat.” But at the time, some people around the band were concerned with the rootsier direction after Camper Van Beethoven’s alt-rock success.

“Our A&R guy was very supportive, but he said to us after the first Crack record, ‘You’ve got this alt-rock following, and now you’re putting out an album of half country rock. You sure you want to do this?’ I’m like, ‘I’m fine with it,’” Lowery said. “And that first album, on alternative rock radio, sounds totally American roots rock. The first tour we did before we came out with that album, we did shows with Uncle Tupelo opening for us, and you know, I mean, there were people who thought Uncle Tupelo was cool, but it was like 50 people. The Americana thing had not started yet; that was just a brave few people.”

—  Reporter: 541-617-7814, bmcelhiney@bendbulletin.com

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