Jake Blount's new album 'The New Faith' on Smithsonian Folkways

NEW ALBUM OUT SEPTEMBER 23 ON SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS


FIRST SINGLE “DIDN’T IT RAIN” OUT NOW!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3p20tC2k-w

Photo credit: Tadin Brown


Acclaimed musician and scholar Jake Blount will release his highly-anticipated new album, The New Faith, September 23 on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings—Blount’s first project in partnership with the esteemed non-profit label (pre-order/pre-save). The follow up to 2020’s breakthrough debut, Spider Tales, which The Guardian awarded a perfect five stars and called, “an instant classic,” The New Faith will be released as part of Smithsonian Folkways’ African American Legacy series—co-conceived with and supported by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.


A dystopian Afrofuturistic concept album, the record features ten reimagined and reinterpreted traditional Black spirituals across twelve tracks in addition to two original spoken word pieces. The album’s first single, Blount’s stirring version of “Didn’t It Rain”—made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson—is out today (listen/share HERE).


Conceived, written and recorded during the darkest months of lockdowns—while Blount himself was still recovering from what he now knows was likely a bout with long COVID—and just after the unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd, the album aims to envision what Black religious music would sound like in a not-so-distant future world devastated by climate change.


Of the ambitious project, Blount shares,


I have long felt a powerful draw to the old spirituals passed down in my community. I am an unlikely devotee; I only rarely attended church as a child, declared myself an atheist at the tender age of eight and developed a strong antipathy toward Christianity when I began to understand my queerness. Nonetheless, spirituals are the songs I bring to communal singing events. They are the songs I teach. In moments of homesickness, sorrow and fear, they are the songs I turn to for solace.


This record envisions Black American religious music in a future devastated by warfare and anthropogenic climate change. The record is based on field recordings of Black religious services from the early-to-mid 20th century, but it is composed entirely of new arrangements and subtle rewrites of traditional Black folk songs. To make an informed prediction, I referenced a more diverse cross-section of the African Diaspora’s music than I ever have before. This album incorporates sounds from Belize, Georgia, Jamaica, Texas, Mississippi, New York and beyond.


It is not surprising to me that the most paralyzing time of my life, and the deepest dive into history I’ve yet taken, have resulted in an Afrofuturist album. I believe our most likely future bears a close resemblance to our past.


The end result is an album comprised of songs and sounds heard in traditional African and African American ceremony, but updated with modern techniques. Drums, banjos, fiddles and song meet rock and roll, rap, looping, and contemporary arrangements. Ambient sounds and drone material collected on Cushing’s Island, Maine, establish the soundscape. I discerned the sound of the future by listening to the past and present.


The destruction of a way of life entails both loss and growth. The traditional songs I adapted for The New Faith originally developed among a people who had but recently been robbed of home, history, family, culture, and society. The unique history of African American people made our musical tradition an ideal candidate for my ambitious task. The New Faith is a statement of reverence for our devastating, yet empowering past; of anticipation and anxiety toward our uncertain future; and of hope that, come what may, something of us will yet survive.”


Produced by Blount along with Brian Slattery, the album was recorded mainly in Blount’s own bedroom in Providence, RI. In addition to Blount on vocals, fiddle, banjo, bass, percussion and strings and Slattery on percussion, guitar and strings, the album features guest appearances by Demeanor, D’orjay The Singing Shaman, Samuel James, Kaïa Kater, Lizzie No, Mali Obomsawin, Brandi Pace, Rissi Palmer and Lillian Werbin.



Based in Providence, RI, 26-year-old Blount is an award-winning banjoist, fiddler, singer and scholar specializing in the folk traditions of Black and indigenous Americans. In 2020, his debut solo album, Spider Tales, launched at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart and received overwhelming critical praise landing on year-end best of lists at the The New Yorker, NPR Music and more. In addition to his solo work, he is half of the internationally touring duo Tui, a recipient of 2020 the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, a two-time winner of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop) and a founding member of Bluegrass Pride. Blount has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Newport Folk Festival and numerous other venues across and beyond the U.S. He has presented his scholarly work at museums and universities including the Smithsonian Institution, Berklee College of Music and Yale University. His writing has appeared in Paste Magazine, No Depression, and NPR Music.


Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. The label's mission is to document music, spoken word, instruction and sounds from around the world, continuing the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948. The Smithsonian acquired Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987 and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has continued the Folkways tradition by supporting the work of traditional artists and expressing a commitment to cultural diversity, education and increased understanding among peoples through the production, documentation, preservation and dissemination of sound.


THE NEW FAITH TRACK LIST


The Psalms of the Sentinel


1. Take Me to the Water / Prayer


2. The Downward Road


3. Didn’t It Rain


4. Tangle Eye Blues


The Psalms of the Gravedigger


5. Parable


6. Death Have Mercy


7. City Called Heaven


8. They Are Waiting for Me


The Psalms of the Teacher


9. Psalms


10. Just as Well to Get Ready, You Got to Die


11. Give Up the World


12. Once There Was No Sun


www.jakeblount.com