"The Man Was Burning"

The new single from roots master Jake Blount troubles the waters. Known for his incisive perspective on Black American folk music and powerhouse musicianship, Blount has unearthed a rare fire-and-brimstone spiritual from the 1930s and reworked the lyrics to speak to our current era of ultra-wealth and privilege. With “The Man Was Burning,” coming February 22, 2022 on Free Dirt Records, Blounts moves easily along the spectrum of Black roots music, from field recordings in penitentiaries, to the electric guitar of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, all the way up to an updated modern sound that incorporates looped production from hip-hop.

“Blount, an Afrofuturist in roots-music garb, turns the early African-American songbook of blues, spirituals and field songs into a Dr. Who-like Tardis in recordings that engage with those old styles while warping, distilling and even exploding them… Tweaking God-smitten lyrics to resonate in an era of climate-destroying over-consumption, on "The Man Was Burning" Blount spans the centuries to create an apocalypse for now.” - Ann Powers, NPR

Having spent part of the pandemic at his family farm in Virginia, “just up the road from the plantation where our ancestors were kept,” he says, his own family history in the South was foremost in his mind when sourcing and recording the song. Blount found the song on an old Smithsonian Folkways LP, Virginia Work Songs. The singer, Joe Lee, was 71 years old and incarcerated at Virginia’s Powhatan State Farm when John Lomax recorded him in 1936. “It’s a spiritual that echoes with burning hellfire,” Blount says. “All of these supernatural, plagues of Egypt-type things are happening to this person ostensibly as punishment for his gambling. I don’t really mind people gambling, so I changed the verses to be about somebody who’s hoarding money and thinking too much of what it can do for him and is punished. This is kind of my “Eat the Rich” moment."

“He’s back with a new single, and an electric guitar – but with the eerie vocal harmonies and earthy handclaps that keep this song rooted in the “old weird America” that so many old folksongs inhabit… It’s both unsettling and somehow swinging all at once – and catchy as hell.” - New Sounds

For as long as it’s existed, the American roots music industry has co-opted Black music into a package to be marketed and resold, defanging or erasing perspectives deemed too threatening along the way. Banjo player and fiddler Jake Blount resurrects these deep musical strains on Spider Tales, his debut record out May 29th on Free Dirt Records.

"An incredible example of historically informed, beautifully played old-time music." - Rhiannon Giddens

Named for Anansi—the great trickster of Akan mythology—Spider Tales features fourteen carefully chosen tracks drawn from Blount’s extensive research of Black and Indigenous mountain music. The result is an unprecedented testament to the voices paradoxically obscured yet profoundly ingrained into the Appalachian tradition.

"An instant classic." - Jude Rogers, The Guardian

With a history of hardship and resistance coded into the music, Spider Tales brings out centuries of visceral feeling refracted again through the lens of Blount’s own experience as an LGBTQ activist and key figure in an emerging wave of queer roots musicians. The album’s sound is appropriately haunted—spinning through “crooked” instrumental tunes, modal keys, stark songs, and confounding melodic structures—and its lyrics range from despairing to violent to downright apocalyptic. Blount is joined by his musical peers Tatiana Hargreaves, Nic Gareiss, Rachel Eddy, and Haselden Ciaccio on the album, which was produced by Jeff Claus and Judy Hyman (The Horse Flies). Altogether, Spider Tales is a beautiful, masterfully performed, and thematically intense first statement into the transforming canon of American roots music.

"What a wonderful, vivid, slightly roguish, and quite powerful collection it is." - Ann Powers, NPR

Purchase Spider Tales now.