Artist: Karl Blau
Album: Introducing Karl Blau
Label: Raven Marching Band Records
Release Date: 05/13/2016
Maybe you haven’t heard his name as often as you should, but singer-songwriter Karl Blau has been inspiring musicians worldwide for two decades. He’s had two songs written about him by London punk band Video Nasties and rock band The Microphones, not to mention the impact he’s made on Grammy-nominated producer Tucker Martine and longtime collaborator and fellow musician, Laura Veirs, both of whom have given inspired testimonials about the power of Karl Blau. Working with a star-studded team including Martine as producer with contributors Veirs, Jim James, and Eli Moore, the Anacortes, WA indie-folk musician released a collection entitled Introducing Karl Blau, covering interpretations of classic 60s and 70s country-folk tracks.
The full-length record, his first in over five years, has Blau implementing different musical genres to craft an original take on country’s biggest classics. The result is an old-fashioned romp of mesmerizing vocals and catchy hooks (after all, Martine does call Blau the “hook merchant”, an honor when even being able to transform other songwriters’ words). Opening track “That’s How I Got To Memphis” begins with a wild, punching beat leading to low and slow vocals simmering underneath multi-instrumental arrangements and back-up vocals, the repetition of the title not beating itself over your head, but simply nudging its way inside your brain. The record’s standout track is the mystical “Fallin’ Rain”. Ten minutes of lone notes shimmering in the background and tropical rhythms filling the space, the 1970s Link Wray song welcomes Blau’s antiquated take on it. Later, his playful cover of “To Love Somebody” veers away from deep, heavy sounds to a smoother voice and more modern-pop beats. Finally, the record ends with Blau’s old-timey, straight-forward version of Tom Rich’s “No Regrets”. The lyrics have an air of finality about them, acting as a profound conclusion to a cohesive record. Somehow, Blau’s voice completely alters to accommodate each track, in a way that if the album wasn’t titled how it is, you might not believe it’s him on every track. From a soft warbling voice on “That’s How I Got To Memphis” to deep, assured vocals on “Dreaming My Dreams”, every aspect of Blau’s musicianship changes and transforms across the length of the record with a humble ambition that succeeds, culminating in a country tribute done justice to.