For his first record of new material in three decades, singer/songwriter Norman Blake decided to turn his attention to the shadier characters in American history. Rather than lionizing saints and heroes, Blake instead tells the stories of those stranger characters whose fortunes were derailed either by bad luck or their own doing. By doing this, he situates himself in a long line of American folk singers, putting his characters in a police lineup next to Stagger Lee and Gypsy Davy. On “Black Bart,” Blake humanizes a notorious criminal, not only recounting his crimes, but also giving him flesh, blood and depth. Its a testament not only to Bart’s fascinating story, but to Blake’s skill as a songwriter.
Wood, Wire & Words is out now on Plectrafone Records.