By some oversight of the grim reaper of arts funding a small stash of hidden cash still exists in these Derbyshire Hills to subsidise the appearance of the troubaodours and artists and actors in the village halls, churches, and probably old barns of rural and remote communities. So it was with surprise and delight I joined local villagers of all ages to go and hear Blair Dunlop, one of the most exciting talents in acoustic folk.
Blair Dunlop may get frustrated by the constant reference, including in his own publicity to his dad, Ashley Hutchings, founder of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and much else, From what I heard I can foresee a time quite soon when paternal references might be obsolete. This is a guy carving out his own distinctive and powerful voice in music.
He took to the stage looking like a 19th century slightly dissolute aristo, long hair going out of control, on the way home from a big night - one of Byron’s pals, the thoughtful one perhaps. An audience nowhere near a100% made up of folkies and singer songwriter fans I thought might take a while to be won over but from the start they seem to buy into his style; his songs; and his singing.
Perhaps not surprising given that he grew up with probably every guitar pickin’ ace in England as a family friend, he is a guitarist of quite astonishing accomplishment - but you don’t get to play like he is does on the good wishes of your Dad’s pals - virtuoso playing like this is built out of obsessive dedication to your craft.
Even so great picking for the sake of itself is only going to make the your guitar nerds applaud – the rest of us want to hear the playing in the service of the song and this something Blair Dunlop did with unfailing judgement. Not once did I feel his playing slip into self-indulgence or grandstanding.
In a varied set of his own material and those of others including an adept version of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning he introduced several new songs which were really well received. A standout for me was his opener; “She Won't Cry For Me” a truly lovely song. Singer songwriters come and go, discovering a nugget or two of gold in the mud of experience and delivering a couple of memorable songs before disappearing into pastiche and re-tread, if he can keep maturing as a song writer with material like that, this guy is going to last.
A really great gig
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