CD Review: Robert Sarazin Blake

Robert Sarazin Blake
Robt Sarazin Blake

One of the unique perspectives that comes with 15 years of owning What’s Up! is getting to see the progression and cycle of musical careers. For most, it’s short – start a band, year later the band ends, everyone moves to the big city, that’s that. Which is one of the reasons I love Robert Sarazin Blake so much – I’ve been blessed with seeing his career virtually from the start, through a short move to Philadelphia, countless tours across the United States and Ireland, several albums (many I’ve been lucky enough to review), 13 Stringband Jamborees. For the 15+ years, Robert has been making music in this town, I’ve been able to watch his development as a songwriter, as a musician and as a person. From a young folk punk rebel to a modern day Pete Seeger, Robert’s music has filled my house on many occasions and these very pages more times than I can count.
With his latest release, Robt Sarazin Blake, Robert continues to do what he does best, make warm and beautiful folk music. The kind of music you listen to with a cup of tea and a good book, or out in a country field among the fields and the trees – it’s good listening for when times are good and you are at peace. As is the case with nearly every Robert Sarazin Blake record, it is haunting, beautiful, heartfelt and honest.
One of the keys to Robert’s music, especially his recorded material, is Robert never tries to reinvent the wheel. He doesn’t try to come out with a new sound or break new sonic barrier – instead Robert lives within the sounds of traditional folk and moves within it with great ease. Like a poet that works within lyrical restriction, Robert never strays from his sound, instead working within it to perfection. Each chord, each line, each song, each album all fit within a tried and true formula. But that’s not to call his music formulaic, it’s fresh with surprises, taking the listener through Robert’s creative soul.
The new album, which was recorded at Faraway Sound in Brooklyn, is primarily Robert, his guitar and the soulful Pete Seeger singing style. Everything sounds natural – one mic as if he is playing around the campfire. A few friends help round out some of the songs – Anais Mitchell lends vocals on the standout track “Our Winter in New York” for example (which features a beautiful Nick Drake-esque sound). But at its core, the sound is all Robert, alone and enchanting.
Of all of Robert’s work, this album stands out above the rest – there’s a maturity and strength that hasn’t been found on past works. He sounds like he’s been around the block – no longer the young and plucky folk punk, but the guiding veteran. He’s lived life and has a story to tell.
Here’s hoping I get to see another 15 years of Robert’s career, producing music as wonderful as Robt Sarazin Blake.
–Brent Cole