In 1997, Robert Sarazin Blake dropped out of college and hit the road. The folk music of his fatherís house had combined with the DIY punk ethos of the day and produced his first batch of songs, Another Irrelevant Year. On the heels of Richard Manning, Billy Bragg, and Ani Difranco, Blakeís 18-year-old release is an early document of the folk-punk movement. On his first US tour, Blake played 30 shows around the US planting seeds as he developed touring, not as an economic model, but as a lifestyle. He hasnít stopped. Eleven full length albums into his career, heís continued to write pulling from folk roots, his travels, his contemporaries, and the quiet spot in the back of his mind. The writing has evolved, mellowing with experience and expanding with reference, but the essence of the work has remained the same-strong narratives solidly built on the folk foundation and fully in the immediacy of the now.
The touring and performing has become an art in itself. Performing 200 shows a year, Blake is a world class performer in a neighborhood venue. The show is a combination of songs and rambles landing somewhere between a concert and a theatrical instillation. The neighborhoods have been all over Ireland and the US and occasionally in Canada, Scotland, England, Norway, Denmark, Germany and France. The shows are booked, managed, and driven to by Blake- a one man cottage industry existing underneath and outside the main-streams of the music business.
His songs continue to be influenced by Bob Dylan, John Prine, Shel Silverstein, Christy Moore, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell- his stories and stage banter by Arlo Guthrie, Garrison Keillor, Spalding Gray, his outlook by Naomi Kline, Jim Page, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, and his essence by James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Jeannette Winterson, John Steinbeck, and Philip Roth.
His contemporaries, Anais Mitchell, Louis Ledford, Hamell on Trial, The Heligoats, CR Avery, Jeffrey Lewis, and Jinx Lennon, continue to influence and inspire.
From his home in Bellingham (WA), Blake started his own record label SameRoomRecords, "recordings of songs and musicians in the same room and the same time" -- an oddly unique idea in an era of digitally manipulated sounds -- and has sold over 10,000 albums from his suitcase.
This philosophy reflects Blakeís dedication to the moment, to the connection within live performance. There is always a moment in a Blake show where the room pulls together and the space between the singer, the song, and the listener disappears.
photo by nikolai fox