Spent a couple of hours listening to the real deal last Sunday night in Colfer’s of Carrig-on-Bannow. The band was the Nation Blackwell Bluegrass Band, and the man that adds the lonesome tincture to the cocktail is Curtis Blackwell.
There is something truly beautiful about Curtis’s voice, and at 71yrs he is still delivering some of the most lonesome notes on the planet. It’s easy to see that he’s an old hand at it. The strange thing about these lonesome notes…to my ear’s anyway….is that they don’t use any of the conventional vocal devices in order to sound nice, yet there’s a beauty to them that is difficult to define. Of course there is wonderful dexterity, but there is also a naked truth and a directness in his delivery that makes you tune in. The notes are unadorned. They’re not wrapped in warm blankets trying to cosy your ears. They don’t take detours to keep you interested and they are devoid of vibrato. They’re more emergency Morse code than newsy letter, and yet you’re transfixed. If you want to see the Appalachians, close your eyes and Curtis will take you there.
I thought I’d tell you about Curtis because he’s a gent and a real pleasure to listen to. Needless to say, the rest of the guys are no slouches when it comes to vocals either and they play up a storm to boot.
They are doing a big bunch a gigs around the country….so they’re bound to be playing somewhere close….catch ‘em..they’re worth it. Pity they weren’t round for the Dunmore East festival….it could have done with them.