Photo by Michelle Lotker
I absolutely loved Jake Blount's 2020 album Spider Tales and have wanted to see him ever since first hearing it. Seeing him should be quite easy considering he's based in Providence, RI and I'm somewhat close to the city. But we all know how life has turned out the past almost two years, so this was my first chance. It turns out that this was Blount's first Providence show since relocating to the city from Virginia, so it was kind of a special night for everyone.
Seeing Jake Blount and his band perform live isn't just a concert. He's also an ethnomusicologist, so he will explain the origins of songs and general musical history while tuning between songs. In fact, he even explained that the reason he was tuning so much between songs is the unusual tunings used in early folk. If you're a fan of roots music and history, this is a special treat.
And then there's the music itself. Blount moved between styles in his set, going between bluegrass, jazz, and folk with ease. An early highlight of the night was a cover of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?," originally done by Lead Belly, and possibly most popularly by Nirvana. The song was included on Spider Tales, and that may have been my favorite on the album. The highlight of the night was "The Man Was Burning." Blount discovered this song while compiling a playlist for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The song was sung by an inmate in the 1920's or 1930. Blount resurrected the song as a rock song (which will be his new single, and should be out any day now) but played it as a bluegrass song at Askew. He also played a version of "When You See (Those Flying Saucers)," which suggests that seeing spaceships from another world might be the second coming of the Lord. A Jake Blount performance isn't just a concert. You'll head home with some extra credit work to track down the original recordings of these songs, and do so happily.