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JOHN BLAKE - The Narrow Edge

JOHN BLAKE - The Narrow Edge
Private Label JBMCD001

I love this album. I'm always a bit apprehensive when I see a solo instrumental album. Sometimes it's too specific and not really for the general listener, but more for musicians. Not so in this case. I was immediately taken in from the first few bars by the clear, straightforward, songbird sound of John Blake's flute playing. Here's where references to blackbirds, nightingales and thrushes come from.

The recording is nice too, clear and well mixed. I can hear the flute first and the other instruments close at hand, though not overbearing. The accompaniment is modest and effective and bends and moves with the flute. The style is relatively simple, no showing off, unless it's showing off how to be a good honest flute player. This album does not sound sterile, with all the questionable benefits of modern recording, it actually sounds like a real person playing his own, very real, instrument.

I can hear the love of the flute and the respect John Blake clearly has for the tunes. There's a deep seated knowledge of the music and John is audibly influenced by listening to many different players: Seamus Tansey and Peter Horan among others. John demonstrates the desire to explore the tune without getting bored with it and wanting to embellish too much.

This album shows the beauty of the tunes as they are. He makes the tunes blossom by just playing them really well – a great example for flute players, just play the tune and do it the best you can. Improve your playing first and only then, maybe, make additions to the notes.

I’d never heard of John Blake, but the fact that what I've just written about his playing concurs almost exactly with the sleeve notes I hadn't read before is a testimony to how much of himself John puts into his music. And he seems, to me, to be deeply musical, wide eyed in love with the music and possibly a touch too modest.

Get this album if you have a love for the music or the instrument - here's someone who knows how to play!

Annemarie de Bie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 101 of The Living Tradition magazine.