The Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic
25th May 2016
(Alternatively titled Rob Harrison explores the conundrum that is all things Blair)
Blair Dunlop comes complete with the history of folk written in his songs, including being influenced by Richard Thompson, Al Stewart and Nick Drake.
At first hearing he sounds like just another folky guitar player, but dig deeper he reveals himself in his various musical predilections to have more layers than an onion.
When he plays his acoustic guitar he is indeed a great player but he seems to want more. But this only becomes apparent from the live experience, as that is quite different from the new CD ‘Gilded’ , which is on the Absolute Records label and was released in May.
On record he comes over as the folky storyteller. It’s a good album but something that would go down well, perhaps in a cocktail party in Bristol, if you catch my drift, but live, he is as they say, a different kettle of fish altogether. Blair seems to be having his Dylan ’66 moment.
At the first part of the set we are treated to an acoustic preamble. It’s only when he brings the electric guitar out does he begin to perk. I fancied shouting out ‘Judas’. For him it would probably make his day.
In a glut of faceless folkies Dunlop stands out from the crowd. It appears that he is desperately trying to ease himself out of the folk rut, but this is only becomes apparent during the live set, not on the CD.
Dunlop has now turned into Jimi Hendrix. I’m thrilled by it but maybe the audience is not so sure, as some may have come to perhaps just sleep through a folk gig. Halfway through Blair asks if they are ok, to a muted reply “uh ok”. Dismayed that the audience cannot embrace all that is Blair but undaunted he carries on regardless.
At the end of the gig, which seems to finish too soon, Blair mingles with the audience. One gets the impression that for all his bravado he is a little insecure and seems to think that unfamiliarity with his material is a reluctance to embrace all that is Blair.
I guess people have just turned up to check him out, but judging by the smiles and conversation that greets his arrival into the throng, we have now learnt to embrace all that is Blair.
As I said before there is an Al Stewart laid-back feel to the album. Blair still seems to be developing as a musician so what the next album will be like who knows. On this album though he explores various musical territories. “She won’t cry for me”is very Nick Drake-like with its frantic finger picking and swirling cymbals. Lyrically he comes up trumps with “First World Problem”, a song I think about third world debt. Maybe it’s a metaphor, who knows.
I personally think the album needs some freak-outs with guitar and drum sparring like the stage show, but perhaps Jeremy and Jemima would choke on their canapes in the aforementioned Bristol party.
Other good tracks are “Temper Your Smiling”, a bit ploddy but has nice melody lines. though, actually it’s a bit Fairport “What We Did On Our Holidays”period. Which is ok in my book.
So altogether a strong album, but the guitar sparring with the drummer at the live gig made for good highs and lows, as the album tends to go along on one level. Worth checking out though.
Other good tracks are “No-Go Zones” and “356”.