Jake Blount's Acclaimed New Album Spider Tales
For as long as it’s existed, the American roots music industry has co-opted Black music into a package to be marketed and resold, defanging or erasing perspectives deemed too threatening along the way. Banjo player and fiddler Jake Blount resurrects these deep musical strains on Spider Tales, his debut record out now on Free Dirt Records.
Named for Anansi — the great trickster of Akan mythology — Spider Tales features fourteen carefully chosen tracks drawn from Blount’s extensive research of Black and Indigenous mountain music. The result is an unprecedented testament to the voices paradoxically obscured yet profoundly ingrained into the Appalachian tradition. Blount is joined by his musical peers Tatiana Hargreaves, Nic Gareiss, Rachel Eddy, and Haselden Ciaccio on the album, which was produced by Jeff Claus and Judy Hyman (The Horse Flies). Altogether, Spider Tales is a beautiful, masterfully performed, and thematically intense first statement into the transforming canon of American roots music.
With a wave of critical praise, Jake Blount's 2020 album Spider Tales reworked Black American roots music for a modern era, pulling forth centuries of Black anger that had been coded into the music at the origin. It's an album for a year of chaos, drawing from Appalachian string band traditions and making them vitally real. Blount recontextualizes Leadbelly (and Nirvana's) "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" from a Black, queer perspective, turns his fiddle into a wall-shaking wail in "Old-Timey Grey Eagle," and unearths a rare old spiritual that heralds the coming apocalypse with "The Angels Done Bowed Down." It's an intensely powerful album that changed how we talk about these Black Southern traditions.
Spider Tales debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts, and enjoyed a positive critical reception.