American Roots: Norman Blake

Norman Blake, guitarist, played in the second in a series of five concerts entitled American Roots: Traditional Music from the Rural South on Saturday, Nov. 3. His soulful, “old time country” music inspired the audience to clap and sometimes even to sing along with him and his wife, Nancy, accompanying him on guitar, mandolin and backup vocals. Blake, a native of Chattanooga Tenn., sang his rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. He played a variety of tunes, including ragtime pieces and hymns.

His relaxed and carefree attitude brought a sense of passion to his music, as he and his wife truly seemed to enjoy themselves, laughing between numbers and smiling broadly at each other. He brought out a rich texture of sounds on his guitar, a full but twangy sound coupled with percussive beats on the guitar’s body. Nancy Blake’s accompaniment blended well, her voice floating in the background over his own gravelly, emotional vocals.

The concert brought a breath from the south “on up the pea patch,” as Blake put it. He teased and joked with the audience, mixing his own music with the music of others, most of the songs highlighting themes of home and love in the light-hearted but rich manner of country music. The end of the concert met with a standing ovation, raucous applause and calls for an encore.

The series began with a sold-out concert by Doc Watson and will continue with a concert featuring Jay Unger and Molly Mason on Jan. 19. This concert will be followed by a performance by Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart on Feb. 2, and then by a performance by Beausoleil on Feb. 22.