[103] Blind Blake – Ragtime Guitar’s Foremost Fingerpicker

27 Mar

The hiss and pop heard in the transfer of these recordings from wax give the music a fragile air, a feeling which is intensified by the clean single guitar notes, yet utterly at odds with the solid, seemingly indestuctible structure which these individual notes construct.


This juxtaposition can be seen again and again throughout the 60-plus minutes  of . . . Fingerpicker.

There is a joy mingled with hopelessness and resignation.  There is the feeling of a great host of players, even when it is just Blake’s guitar and voice.  And when piano or the occasional horn join it, the results sounds like a carnival, but the focus is always on Blake, his unassuming vocals and his inexplicable fingers.

Blake’s voice is evocative without melodrama, sketching the melodies that anchor each piece as his fingers fly over the guitar doing all of the rest of the work.

The guitar in Blake’s hand has a kind of relentlessness, almost like a force of nature. The impression given is that, once started, nothing can stop the music that is captured here.

On the up-tempos the notes fly by like a stampede, brushing everything in their path aside.  In the slower numbers it feels like molten lava oozing out of a volcano, inevitable, unstoppable.

Despite the decades, the sound of the Blues here is instantly recognizable – “One Time Blues” feels like the embryo of “Sweet Home Chicago” – and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s line (from Starlight Express) applies as often as not:

The first line of the blues
Is always sung a second time
I said the first line of the blues
Is always sung a second time
So by the time you get to the third line
You’ve had time to think of a rhyme.

But what elevates Blind Blake into the rare air of the 1,000 is his virtuoso guitar work.  He manages the impressive feat flawlessly of making the highly complex look effortless.

Such talent is timeless, therefore always worth celebrating and exploring.

Next Week:  Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 103 = 10%)
Heard before blogging? No. (16 of 103 = 16%)
Recommend? Yes. (85 of 103 = 83%)


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