John Blek – The Embers

Album Review | K&F Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson

County Cork singer songwriter John Blek returns with his fifth solo album The Embers, which serves essentially as the third installment of a four-part themed album series relating to the elements. If 2017’s Catharsis, Vol 1 covered the Sea and last year’s Thistle and Thorn looked at the Earth, then The Embers is pretty much centred around the theme of Fire, “The Flame” being possibly the most obvious song, “We lit a fire and we let it burn..” If the narrative of each album draws on these themes, however tenuously, then John manages at the same time to keep it all a little subliminal, allowing each album to stand alone, The Embers being no exception.

If “Empty Pockets” isn’t quite autobiographical, despite the lyric “With these rusted strings I will make my fortune, singing for my supper on every corner”, which relates to the life of a travelling troubadour, then “Ciara Waiting” clearly relates to loved ones back at home, in this case his fiancée. The singer claims not to have heard Tim Buckley, but occasionally the similarity in his voice and phrasing is uncanny, especially on the ethereal “The Haunting”, a performance exquisitely spine-tingling. John always includes an instrumental, which he sees as a reflective interlude, giving food for thought and here “Old Hand” provides a couple of minutes of Bert Jansch inspired beauty. Throughout the album, like the other four before it, John maintains a high standard of craft in his songwriting, a clear and crisp finger picked guitar style and a mature and confident vocal performance. A voice that should be heard widely.