Not short on charisma and style, Blair Dunlop has quickly made his presence felt on the roots music scene. It's easy to forget that it was only February of this year which saw him performing in the BBC Young Folk Awards. Blair is also part of the revived and reinvigorated Albion Band and recently toured with the ‘The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny’ show.
Now comes 'Blight & Blossom', a project that according to Blair, has been twenty years in the making - two decades of life spent around festivals and clubs with renowned folk parents must seep into the bones. Despite this in-depth folk education, his first full length album only contains one traditional number, separating him from any attachments to past or present, and making for a confident statement.
Three originals are taken from previous EP's and given a makeover: 'Bags Outside The Door' edges a win from the older material - a strange expression for someone who is only 20! - it's themes of anger and disenfranchisement given fresh impetus with band backing and saxophone solo. The aforementioned trad number, 'Black Is The Colour' is another held over from previous recordings, however, here Blair employs the sultry tones of Larkin Poe to provide tinges of Americana and foreboding.
Two covers - Shawn Colvin's 'Trouble', and an unreleased Richard Thompson song, 'Seven Brothers' - are nicely balanced against the originals, the latter receiving a particularly striking yet understated arrangement.
The intricacies of his guitar work are continually exemplary but don't highlight weaknesses in other departments, his voice and lyrics remain impressive throughout; when backed with sumptuous strings on the title track, about a fleeting relationship, one suspects mainstream attention could be a distinct possibility.
Blair Dunlop has used the gathered studio guests to enhance his already strong material with an authority and unusual maturity. This should be a tricky debut to top!