Album Review

John Blek – Embers: Album Review

John Blek releases his fifth solo album; The Embers. The Cork songwriter delivers a wonderfully evocative experience throughout his latest opus.

Released: 7th February 2020

Label: KF Records

Format: CD / LP / DD / DSP

The Embers is the fifth solo album from County Cork singer/songwriter John Blek and follows hot on the heels of 2019’s Thistle and Thorn; an album that reached Number One in the Independent Irish Album Charts. 

John Blek is well known for his masterful fingerpicking guitar style and even more particularly for his stunning voice and each of these talents are showcased to their fullest effect on The Embers.

The Embers is a collection of eight retrospective, evocative and sometimes outstanding songs, plus one instrumental offering.  The songs are structured around John’s guitar and vocal and backing from John’s band colleagues is generally minimal but tastefully applied. 

John’s lyrics are quite abstract; death and thwarted love are a recurring theme throughout the album, with subject matter often directed towards real – or imagined – (that’s left to the listener to decide) partners.

Instrumentally, the sparse contribution from the band suits the intimate nature of the songs perfectly.  The services of the backing band which, as well as John on guitar and lead vocals, comprises Brian Casey on Piano, bass, organ and guitar, Davie Ryan on percussion, Matthew Berrill on clarinets and Mick Flannery on vocals are added in a way that perfectly enhances and provides emphasis to each of the songs in the best possible way.

Outstanding songs on the album include opening track Empty Pockets, a song that contains possibly the most powerful lyric. Flame is a metaphorical tale which equates consuming passion to a raging fire; Hell or High Water, which is unique amongst the tracks in utilising a full band sound and electric guitar. The Haunting is the most evocative song in the collection which tells an ethereal story over a sparse guitar/piano/keyboard backing and the album closes with Walls: a song which offers a shrewd and thought-provoking observation of man’s obsession with territorialism and division.

At 34 minutes 37 seconds, Embers is a short album by today’s standards but it is, nonetheless, a very pleasant listen and is well worth seeking out. 

John is currently touring the UK – he plays The Greystones, Sheffield on 23rd February, The Hyde Tavern, Winchester on 26th February, Bluestone Brewing Company, Newport on 28th February before returning to Cork for more shows and then a trip to Germany in March.

John Blek: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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