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Upcoming: Blair Dunlop - House of Jacks

Blair Dunlop‘House of Jacks’ is the second album by the award-winning British singer, songwriter and guitarist Blair Dunlop. 2012’s  ‘Blight & Blossom’,  established Dunlop as an artist with an exciting career ahead and led to him receiving the Horizon Award at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. ‘House of Jacks’ more than lives up to that promise; a collection of beautifully crafted songs that are influenced, but not confined, by his folk roots. Whereas ‘Blight & Blossom’ was deliberately light in its production, on ‘House of Jacks’ Blair’s trademark guitar styling is enriched with a broader palette of instruments to create a more contemporary sound and a very special record.

Releasing two EPs in his teens, becoming a regular at folk festivals in both Britain and abroad, and touring as both a solo artist and the front man of the regenerated The Albion Band laid the groundwork for the release of his debut album ‘Blight & Blossom’. Q awarded the record 4 stars, declaring Blair to be "a vital bridge between Brit folk's first and latest flowerings", The Guardian followed suit stating "The British folk scene has produced a series of impressive dynasties, and this looks like the start of yet another" while Radio 2’s Simon Mayo called it “An outstanding debut".

On ‘House of Jacks’ Blair has, once again, teamed up with producer Mark Hutchinson, a partnership which enables Blair’s storytelling, musicianship and captivating voice to shine. The lightness of instrumentation in the opening song, and first single, ‘Something’s Gonna Give Way’ belies the grimness of its tale of schoolboy prejudices and the damaging consequences.

The conceptual ‘45s (c.’69)’ and its companion piece ‘45s (c.’14)’ are astute descriptions of a Soho club - in its 60s heyday (“They've had The Kinks and Mr Zimmerman and all things in between, even Jackson Frank but back when he had self-esteem”) and in 2014 (“Meet me at the entrance, bring your ego we'll be fine. We'll catch the VIP train and pass the people stood in line”). A supporter of both Spurs and ACF Fiorentina, Blair’s love of football inspired the instrumental ‘Viola’s Reverie’, on which his trademark guitar work comes to the fore, and the Morricone-esque ‘The Ballad of Enzo Laviano’ - a fictional tale of a young Italian footballer on the eve of his proposed move to Naples from his Sardinian hometown. Elsewhere Blair explores denial (’50 Shades of Blue’), determinism (‘Chain by Design’), miscommunication (‘Different Schools’) and deliberation (‘The Station’, inspired by Robert J Hastings’ poem).

The title track, a poetic tale of a profound love, is another fine example of Blair’s lyricism and his ability to write a memorable melody. ‘Song of Two Bridges’ - a tender portrait of life as an observer, written by Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol (the only song on the record not written by Blair) - brings the album to a close.

House of Jacks is released on May 26th 2014 on Rooksmere Records and will be reviewed on North West Folk at a later date.


Blair Dunlop

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