Album Review | Free Dirt | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5
Rhode Island-based banjo picker and fiddle player Jake Blount explores the rich tapestry of traditional sounds from the Appalachians from the perspective of the Black experience. Spider Tales takes a hold immediately, from the trance-like banjo picking and simple rhythmic percussion on Lucius Smith’s “Goodbye Honey You Can Call That Gone” through to the Josie Miles blues “Mad Mama’s Blues”. Like the music of The Carolina Chocolate Drops before him, the selections are as authentic sounding as you can possibly imagine, presented with the additional bonus of quality sound, certainly on such inclusions as “Roustabout”, “Old-Timey Grey Eagle” and “Boll Weevil”.
The album title alone gives us little doubt that Jake is unearthing deep roots throughout the album, with each of the fourteen songs and tunes entrenched in a folklore that stretches back to the homelands of Africa. Even the now very familiar Lead Belly song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” invites us to look deeper than that of Kurt Cobain’s swansong, to a deep rooted song of real hardship. Work songs and spirituals such as “Move, Daniel” and “The Angels Done Bowed Down” maintain a rawness that takes us way beyond imitation or pastiche, but instead gives us a real sense of history and tradition. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom though, with some feisty instrumentals such as “Rocky Road to Dublin”, derived from the Cherokee banjo/fiddle playing of Osey and Ernest Helton. A fine engaging and earthy album.
Choice Track: Where Did You Sleep Last Night (NSV 498)