Son of The Guv’nor, Ashley Hutchings, Blair Dunlop has an honorary place At The Barrier (either that or in the little camp at Cropredy). However, it’s fully deserved. He’s been part of the soundtrack since his face painted debut Blight & Blossom. Queensland finds him arguably at his best.
Release date: 8th January 2021
Label: Gilded Wings Records
Format: double vinyl! / CD / DL
We’re of a time when musicians are using the periods when they would normally be on the road to release new music. Blair Dunlop’s 2020 tour of the Queensland area in Australia has resulted in this live album. Recorded at various venues on Festival of Small Halls and at Woodford Folk Festival. Much of his recent work gets aired with the benefit of a crystal clear, recording of him playing solo. Going for it without the band. The album also contains a handful of field recordings from the tour as Blair interviews people on his way around.
And while we’re offering the opinion that Trails: Queensland finds Blair at his best, let’s clarify. He’s one of those artists who can metamorphosise into any musical form and work his music into a thing of beauty. Many of us are of the opinion that Blair’s within touching distance of that other famous Fairporter, Richard Thompson. Now, we all know Thommo can play the guitar and when he starts that tumble of notes on 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, for example, we get that combination of goosebumps and pant wetting warmth. When Blair Dunlop steps up out an acoustic guitar, remarks (nervously?) “My first Woodford,” and he launches into “I am a lonely traveller,” on One And The Same, I get a similar feeling. And that’s even without Fallout and The Station (in my book – his ‘Vincent…’) on the setlist.
Confession time. I simply had the opening track on repeat before allowing the rest of the album to run. But then when you get to the jaunty arrangement on No Go Zones, you’ll get what I mean. Maybe even agree, marvelling at the smattering of notes as Blair tries to convince a group of people on the other side of the world about the wonderful cosmopolitanism of Birmingham, UK. “The Eastern food isn’t anything like the shite you had before.” Indeed.
The Dunlop range gets showcased with some melancholy slow strummed blues contrasting with the bright and fleet-fingered picking which picks up again on Within My Citadel. You’d almost swear he’s about to jump on his fine motorbike for a ride down to Boxhill. I recall this one being previewed at Manchester’s (now defunct) Ruby Lounge when it didn’t even have a title. As he repeats the line about being “the remnants of a boyhood in disguise“, oh, you know it’s going to be one of those that you immediately skip back to listen again. Same with Spices From The East.
Trails: Queensland is a wonderful travelogue. The bizarre soundbites intervals provide an unusual link to a tremendous souvenir and essential addition to the Blair Dunlop legacy. It’s heartbreaking to hear him say “Sometimes I think what I do is pointless,” (he gets shot down pretty quickly to be fair. BUT, should you ever get the chance, remind him IT’S NOT! The proverbial passing of the baton, Blair Dunlop picking it up and running with it and giving us the album we wanted from him. Mate, like Bobby D, keep on keepin’ on.
Listen to One And The Same from the album here: