John Blek: Embers review – Cork songwriter at the peak of his powers

Fri, Feb 7, 2020, 05:00

   
  

Album:
Embers

Artist:
John Blek

Label:
WARR

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

Depending on what music mood he’s in, Cork singer-songwriter John Blek releases albums under his own name or within a band format – John Blek & the Rats – yet whatever direction is chosen the outcome is a winning one.

Residing in the region of classic Americana and US folk (Townes Van Zandt, et al), Blek’s previous albums have been themed around various topics, most recently, his 2019 album, Thistle & Thorn, which was described by The Irish Times as an “ode to nature” – and Embers is no different.

With a clear clue in the album title, nine tracks – one of which, Old Hand, is as elegant an acoustic guitar instrumental as you’ll hear all year – rake over the coals of an abandoned love affair, but that’s as much of a blatant signpost as you’ll get.

The remaining eight songs outline what happens after “the fires of love, lust, life and revolution have burned out”, but do so in a way that refuse to drift into clichéd woe-is-me what-might-have-beens.

In other words, the songs have a narrative spine, and are further strengthened by the addition of Notify’s Davie Ryan, Ensemble Eriu’s Matthew Berrill, and fellow Cork songwriter Mick Flannery, who shares vocals across the spiritually inclined Revived. End result? If an artist’s fifth album could be said to constitute a body of work, then Blek’s creativity is in very good, possibly rude health.