Armed with banjos and an entire esoteric folk crew, Blake Hornsby studies and draws connections between classic entries in the Appalachian and the UK folk canon.
Hornsby, an Asheville, NC based artist, is known for blending psychedelia into solo guitar music (or what has been branded as “American primitive guitar music”). While the main focus on this record is the history of traditional songs and tunes from Appalachian, Celtic and English cultures and how they relate, he still approaches the music with a heady and expanded mind, and even adds some mind-altering effects to a handful of tracks.
The majority of the record finds Hornsby coasting solo on a reverb-kissed banjo, breathing new life into melodies both common and obscure. He details in the liner notes his extensive research on these classics, pointing out their origins and how they changed over the years by other artists. He also helpfully states which particular versions informed his own unique adaptations. This aspect of the record would make any Smithsonian Folkways fan appreciate Hornsby and his work here.
Then, on tracks like his interpretation of “Cruel Sister,” made popular (again) by Pentangle in the 70s, Hornsby sings and plays instruments like guitar, shruti box and bells, while guest players join in on sitar, fiddle and singing bowls (among other things). The resulting sound is feverish, ritualistic and straight up hypnotic, like a field recording of some sort of transcendental mushroom ceremony. This hallucinatory mountain folk vibe goes even harder on the record’s concluding piece, a madly spaced-out version of “House Carpenter” that will make you look at the trad ballad in an entirely new light.
Fans of historical banjo tunes and the music of experimental bluegrass and old time music outfits like Padang Food Tigers, Black Twig Pickers and Pelt would love this record equally. Click here to get your copy now.