A singer of incomparable style and sultriness, Chris Isaak, who performs July 22 at the Mountain Winery, walks, seemingly with ease, the fine line between being mysterious and cool and being an international pop star.
Isaak has sold millions of albums, appeared in several films, starred in his own television shows and had a handful of hit songs including the chart-topper “Wicked Game,” and yet he still manages to maintain an aura of down-home charm and humility.
Born in Stockton, Calif., Isaak grew up in a working-class family and got his musical start in a rockabilly outfit called Silvertone. Recreating the reverb-drenched sound of the Sun Studios-era rock ’n’ roll, with its crooning vocals and heartache-dripping lyrics, Silvertone would go on to be Isaak’s permanent backing band.
On his solo debut album, Silvertone, Isaak continued in the retro vein, drawing obvious comparisons to Roy Orbison and a young Elvis Presley. The album was a critical success and laid the foundation for what would become a long and celebrated career. It also caught the ear of filmmaker David Lynch, who included two of Isaak’s songs, “Gone Ridin’” and “Livin’ for Your Lover” in his cult classic film Blue Velvet.
An inspired pairing of cultural misfits, the working relationship formed between Lynch and Isaak provided Isaak with mass exposure—and underground credibility—and provided Lynch with an artist who exuded a sense of timelessness yet was creating music that, while stylistically familiar, had not lost its charm due to over-exposure. Isaak would provide songs to numerous other underground films including Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. He also appeared in many films including Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Silence of the Lambs, Little Buddha and Married to the Mob.
With cult fame as a jumping-off point, Isaak nestled into a cultural sweet spot where he has the appreciation of the edgy, non-conformist Lynch fans and also the ears and attention of the adult record-buying crowd with music that is both timeless and fresh.
Chris Isaak performs at the Mountain Winery on July 22.