A Review of the John Blanks CD
"Better Late Than Naked"
"Better Late Than Naked"Acoustyistics studios JBCD001.copyright: John Blanks 2005.
by John Blanks
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 10/06
Well, I suppose that I should make an admission at the outset of
this review. John Blanks is a guy well known to me, and a guy
furthermore that I presented an award to just four days ago, when he
won the far from non-prestigious 2006 BBC Write A Folk Song For
Lincolnshire competition, singing a fine song he had co-written.
But that said, just as he knew the other day that I would be totally
objective in my role as a competition judge, so likewise, I am not
setting out to do him special favours here.
So let's look at what he has presented us with.
At 57 years of age, John has come up with his debut album. Talk about
“long overdue”! I find it hard to believe that such a consummate
performer who has played so many clubs in the East Midlands of England,
should wait so long. Quite why he has, I am not sure. I often think
that he does not quite believe in himself as much as WE believe in him.
He has come up with a CD that is just him and his guitar: a truthful
representation of the man himself in live performance. Congratulations
are due to engineer/co-producer John Robinson of Acoustyistics for
coming up with a wonderfully clean and faithful sound.
That guitar sound of John's comes through my speakers with a ringing
authority. John's guitar is more than authoritative: there are times it
is COMPELLING. John is a guy who once sat at the feet of
the great Jack Hudson, and it shows both in his guitar playing and his
Indeed, he does one of Jack's own songs here: “Driftwood and Nails”. It
is one of the standout cuts, on an album of largely contemporary songs
by other people.
He does a little overdubbing of vocals here and there, but his
otherwise wondrously gimmick-free approach, really does pay dividends.
The highlight for me was his version of Peter Bond's “Joe Peel”. Not
since many years ago when I first heard Bond himself sing this
masterpiece, have I so enjoyed it. Extraordinary. He put back into the
song the little something that was always lost to me when I was
listening to June Tabor's broodingly atmospheric but over-mannered
Some of the other tracks push “Joe Peel” close. John Blanks has
commendably NOT served up the musical equivalent of fluff from his
navel (as so many singer/songwriters these days alas do), but has gone
LOOKING for quality songs for his live act and for this album.
Any quibbles? Not really. Perhaps he missed a real trick with Track 7 “Who Will Be My Nightingale?”
Just a mile or two from his door lives Sue Dewsbury who could surely
have been invited to sing her glorious harmony line to it, like she
always does in club performance? She is one of the great contralto
harmony singers on the English folk scene.
And one other quibble comes with his notes on Dave Wilson's song, track 4.
In them he likens the fate of the Dust Bowl migrants from Oklahoma
immortalised by Steinbeck's Tom Joad - to current day, so-called,
“Asylum Seekers” here in Britain.
Frankly John, it will not wash.
Show me any immigrant in Britain today who is giving her lactating
breast to a malnourished wizened friend/relative/hobo, in order that he
stay alive? (Like Rose of Sharon did in that Steinbeck masterpiece.)
No John, let us get it right here. The Okies were the bravest and most
savagely unfortunate of people: folk who'd often buried their own
nearest-and-dearest at the very spot they died by the very hard road
they'd been travelling down. No money for a proper funeral.
By comparison, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to Britain in
2006, are in the very lap of luxury. Cats in cream. I hope you are
blushing crimson, my dear John, for even drawing the FAINTEST
comparison. (I know WHY you drew it: it is because you are a
fundamentally decent person. But my dear fellow, do not throw your
critical faculties out of ONE door, while you are simultaneously
inviting these new UK settlers in through ANOTHER !)
Now, those two caveats apart, this is an album well worth buying. Get
it from John at his e-address. He is based in Gainsborough in the UK.
- Forty Five Years (Stan Rogers) 3.20
- Annachie Gordon (Trad) 5.28
- Driftwood and Nails (Jack Hudson) 5.08
- Orange Trees and Dusty Roads (Dave Wilson) 4.43
- Night Visiting (Trad) 5.06
- Old Bones (Jez Lowe) 4.13
- Who Will Be My Nightingale? (Simon Johnson) 4.10
- Joe Peel (Peter Bond) 5.29
- Come Home Safely To Me (Allan Taylor)- 4.24
- Half a Man and Half an Elephant (Andy Scattergood & Steve Cartwright) 5.42
- Found and Loved (Harvey Andrews) 4.05
- Lay Down Your Weary Tune (Bob Dylan) 4.13
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