Sunday, August 13, 2006

i've been hanging out with the ghosts of my past.

Thank whatever higher power may or may not exist for Page France. Had it not been for my adoration of Michael Nau's wondrous pop group, I may have never heard of Maryland's Fall Records, and for that reason more than likely would have not sought out purchasing Shelly Blake's Discourse and Correspondence when given the opportunity. Blake is a unique soul, who has been creating music for over a decade. His American roots folk music is touched by an avant-garde take on lyrics and composition.
I do find it notable to reiterate that Shelly Blake is a male. In not knowing that prior to my first listen, I was in for a jarring realization. Though something tells me your first listen will be just as jarring. Blake's achey voice cleans up nice at times, but is more often than not as sloppy as it is comfortable.
In a church where William Elliott Whitmore is preaching to a congregation that solemnly remembers Daniel Johnston fondly, Shelly Blake is in the last pew scribbling his feelings on life, jotting his fears on a prayer card that may profoundly touch a few of the parties before him but will never make it to the pulpit. Blake will make up tunes for his thoughts off the top of his head on his long walk home on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Shelly Blake is very comfortable improvising music alone or with others. The second half of his latest album is testament to this fact. The songs stray wildly from the indie-folk-pop songs of the first half, but stand proudly on their own to feet, even when pushed by the fists of expectation.

Shelly Blake's "Vesper"
& "Home Movies"
from Discourse and Correspondence - Part I (Discourse: Songs for Mary Jean)

Shelly Blake's "Magnetic Tapes and Dreams"
from Discourse and Correspondence - Part II (Correspondence: Improvisations for Joel Grip)

In June, Shelly Blake and Joel Grip took on an impressive feat. They played music together for forty-eight straight hours. They refused to get a wink of sleep as they drove to several places to play over the course of two days. Listen to this extremely interesting short radio documentary by Aaron Henkin on the event by going here or simply downloading the MP3.


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