Renowned guitarist Norman Blake has a new album from Smithsonian Folkways.
Norman Blake is a legend of American guitar, and he gets treatment befitting a legend on the new Day by Day from Smithsonian Folkways, which is being released October 22.
At the forefront of multiple revivals of American roots music — from being house guitarist for Johnny Cash to playing on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline to helping to create “newgrass” with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to reinventing bluegrass with T Bone Burnett on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack — the guy’s a folk hero and has been earning legions of four generations of fans.
The Folkways album has a few originals but is mainly beloved folk songs that Blake’s been singing for years, never showing off his virtuosity but instead conveying a humble mastery and treating the source material with the greatest respect.
It’s always been about music for Blake, now 83. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and grew up in Sulphur Springs, Alabama, listening to the Carter Family, the Skillet Lickers, Roy Acuff, and the Monroe Brothers on the radio. He first picked up a guitar around age 11 or 12, then added mandolin, dobro, and fiddle, dropping out of high school at age 16 to play professionally.
Even with the prestige and success of his subsequent music career — including nine Grammy nominations — Blake maintains that music should remain humble, like his own aspirations. But that doesn’t mean he’s not ambitious about continuing to share the music he loves: He’s released five albums in the last 10 years on Plectrafone Records, recording in and around his rural home in Georgia.
Check out the new release here.
Photography: (All images) courtesy Norman Blake