Young folksinger finds a voice to match his impressive words
Even at the tender age of 22, Blair Dunlop already has all the hallmarks of a seasoned pro: fronting the reformed and regenerated Albion Band, touring solo virtually non-stop, winning plaudits and awards for his debut album in 2012; all of which all brings us to what they call ‘the difficult second album.’
So, can the young man meet the expectation of a doting public? It’s an emphatic yes, from me, and he’s even managed to write two songs that will go on to be folk standards as the years go by.
The opening track, “Something’s Gonna Give Way”, sounds uncannily like a Richard Thompson song circa Rumour and Sigh; but Dunlop’s lyrics, imagery and delivery are startling for one so young, as he tells the story of a 16 year-old bullied by the cool kids and “It” girls on a song that is absolutely outstanding. The punch line will take your breath away.
The haunting “Fifty Shades of Blue” again belies Dunlop’s tender years but manages to express every young man’s feelings as a girlfriend breaks his heart.
Straddling traditional English folk stylings and Americana with the greatest of ease, “Different Schools” will appeal to old and young music fans in equal measure and sounds just perfect for American college radio.
It took me a few listens before I fell in love with the dark and brooding “Ballad of Enzio Laviano” but, when I did, I found myself returning to the faintly Gothic tale of an Italian footballer several times; and like it more every time.
Title track and single “House of Jacks” is another song that straddles various genres, and the organ that cuts through like a blunt knife makes a good song extraordinary.
The musicianship throughout House of Jacks is exemplary, but it’s Blair Dunlop’s expressively soft voice and exquisite lyrics that make this album a keeper.
UK Release May 26th