Blake Jones – The Homebound TapesBlake Jones – The Homebound Tapes  – EP review

Big Stir

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Out now

New EP by Blake Jones, the leader of Fresno California’s The Trike Shop. Six new solo tracks recorded in lockdown due to the coronavirus and seeking to reflect his experiences while housebound. Another Big Stir release…Ian Canty warily pokes his head above the covers and dips into the new abnormal…

It is inevitable that the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic will inform works across various media in the coming years. Most of us have never known anything quite like these times. The feelings of isolation and stress, plus excess hours left for self-examination and reflection, will no doubt result in many works inspired by lockdown in film, television and the printed word. Music is no different either and the pessimist in me anticipates a deluge of self-indulgent navel gazing, but then we come to Blake Jones’ The Homebound Tapes extended play, which offers something far more interesting.

The Trike Shop’s leader examines both the personal and the bigger picture on The Homebound Tapes, recorded at his studio Whispermaphone. He explains the six tracks here as being akin to “short stories” and recorded in a more introverted mode than his Trike Shop output. He documents the world around him sharply, as we shall see.

When the first song of the six, ironically titled The Last Song Of Summer, starts out with just acoustic guitar and voice you may well expect the worst. But never fear, because Blake gives his songs the type of rough charm and plain common sense that disarmed this listener, with allusions to curtains closing and clocks running slow hinting at a world hibernating. These are just examples of his considerable eye for detail, something that The Homebound Tapes is dappled with. Do The Lockdown Bossa Nova follows and is one of his weird Theremin pieces, with cymbals and scratchy percussion applied plus some neat “spy” guitar that for some reason made me think of the theme to The Third Man film.

My favourite track on the record is Three Jerks In A Jeep, a cutting takedown of would-be “liberty warriors” who ride around in trucks tooled up, imagining putting the frighteners on ordinary folks in the US is in some way a demonstration of their “freedom”. Blake sets this to a raucous 1960s garage punk rave-up (think early Pretty Things or the Rolling Stones) that really takes off, some fine guitar work on this too. This is a great number and deserves to be heard and acknowledged as a key song of the (strange) times.

Homebound, a co-write with Rex Broome of the Armoires and Roger Perry on mandolin, is a more laidback country-tinged offering that reports starkly that “this long road is empty and full of disease”. Track five is the polar opposite of the opening song, with the closing down for winter/lockdown fears inverted to feelings of happy celebration. The First Song Of Summer is appropriately filled with hope and joy and the tune is a wonderfully bright pop song with a bouncy r&b momentum. Finally, Make Peace strikes just the right kind of simple and hopeful message that is much needed in these quite worrying times, where fear and hate seem to have taken over everyday life. The effect is intensified by being balanced with a finely tuned musical landscape too.

Blake Jones displays vision, insight and a sure way with a tune on The Homebound Tapes. As I mentioned in the preamble, we’re likely to have many lockdown experience waxings over the next few years. Blake’s work here sets the bar high for anything that follows and this EP spreads good vibes with a large dose big-hearted nous, something sorely needed in the current climate. The Homebound Tapes is a textbook case of making a positive from a negative and damn fine listening too.

Blake Jones is on Facebook here and his website is here

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All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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