Review | Songlines

Spider Tales

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details

Artist/band:

Jake Blount

Label:

Free Dirt Records

October/2020

As a teenager growing up in Virginia, Jake Blount played guitar in funk and metal bands until one day he heard ‘Barton Hollow’ by The Civil Wars. Henceforth, he followed an exclusively acoustic path and immersed himself in the music of black slaves and indigenous folk styles, particularly from the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of the south-eastern US. Black and queer, Blount weaves themes of discrimination, inequity, retribution and loss into his interpretations of traditional songs.

Spider Tales refers to a folkloric character, a master trickster of West African mythology known as Anansi, whose wit and wisdom often targets and usually undermines dark, oppressive forces. In Blount’s quick hands, the gospel classic ‘The Angels Done Bowed Down’ takes on a decidedly spooky, apocalyptic cast. ‘Old-Timey Grey Eagle’, a bluegrass instrumental favourite by Manco Sneed, which pairs Blount’s banjo prowess with the sublimely soulful fiddling of Tatiana Hargreaves, is – as Blount says – “the track that screams” with a surfeit of metaphysical intensity. The entirety of Spider Tales fairly shouts Blount’s arrival as an empowered voice whose revelatory work illuminates long neglected corners of what the artist calls “a deeply syncretic, profoundly American form of music.”

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