“With every record I’m getting closer to what I want to achieve and I think this is comfortably my best album to date.”
From the start, Blair Dunlop’s albums have enjoyed critical acclaim, with each one expanding his musical horizons, his audience and his prodigious songwriting gifts. Now, with the release of his fourth album, Notes From An Island, it’s obvious that he remains consumed by the urge to make music. “I’m kinda buzzin’,” is how he describes his enthusiasm for this album. “The initial reaction has been so amazing.”
Coming from a man still in his mid-20s, whose debut album, Blight & Blossom, won the coveted Horizon Award at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, whose 2010 debut EP is now a collector’s item and who was declared the “vital bridge between Brit folk’s first and latest flowerings” by Q magazine, these are strong sentiments indeed.
Featuring close collaborations with Ed Harcourt, Dave Burn and Gita Langley, plus his long term band mates Fred Claridge and Jacob Stoney, ‘Notes From An Island’ sees the singer, songwriter and guitarist more than living up to that previous promise.
‘Blair is a true artist in his prime, as is wholly evident on this beautiful record. He has it all; a wry turn of phrase in his words, barbed & moving within a second, seriously demonic guitar skills that belie his youthful looks (curses under breath) & a voice like some sort of melancholy angel. But most of all you will hear just great songs. It’s been my honour to help him realise these sonic diamonds; I believe the world is his for the plundering!‘ Ed Harcourt
With its timely mix of socio-political insights, tender love tales and impressive virtuosic guitar playing, Notes From An Island is very much an album which reflects the age in which it has been created. Nevertheless, as with everything Blair does, it is fuelled by a desire to keep moving forwards, break down barriers and maintain the integrity which has established him as a favourite of not just a growing body of fans but of radio programmers and critics.
His guitar playing, always impressive, has taken another quantum leap, at least in part because of his love affair with his new Gretsch, on which he wrote most of the songs.
The album opens with Spices From The East, superficially a lovely song about a young couple cooking a meal together, but as is so often the case with Dunlop, there’s a sub-text for those who look closer. “There’s references to our colonial past, and how our control of the sea networks to the east mean that we can today go down to the supermarket and enjoy those spices from the east, as a result of violence. Also, the drum sound on that track is flippin’ massive, I love the kick drum.”
Feng Shui he describes as “my favourite sonically” and the first single, Sweet On You is “a happy medium between commerciality and authenticity. It’s the first single I’ve done that is 100% me. It has humour, references to the music I grew up loving, and it gives me a bit of a wry smile.”
Asked what hopes he has for this fourth album, he says, “Commercial success and money have never been my prime motivations but, if it goes platinum, I really won’t mind.” He’s already thinking about the next album, some of whose songs are already sketched out in a list he maintains on his phone, but before he gets to that he’s looking forward to his second Australian tour, some select gigs and festivals in the UK and a major tour in the autumn.
Blair Dunlop’s new album ” Notes From An Island” out May 2018
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