Jake Blount’s new album on Smithsonian Folkways is ‘The New Faith‘, which is a dystopian Afrofuturistic concept album. The record features ten reimagined and reinterpreted traditional Black spirituals across twelve tracks in addition to two original spoken word pieces. ‘Didn’t it Rain‘ is a reinterpretation of a song made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson. The concept came together during the lockdowns of the pandemic, whilst Blount himself was still recovering long COVID and the USa was coming to terms withy the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. In this heated atmosphere and still unwell himself Jake Blount envisioned what Black religious music would sound like in a not-so-distant future world devastated by climate change.
Jake Blount has explained his thoughts behind the album “I have long felt a powerful draw to the old spirituals passed down in my community. I am an unlikely devotee; I only rarely attended church as a child, declared myself an atheist at the tender age of eight and developed a strong antipathy toward Christianity when I began to understand my queerness. Nonetheless, spirituals are the songs I bring to communal singing events. They are the songs I teach. In moments of homesickness, sorrow and fear, they are the songs I turn to for solace. This record envisions Black American religious music in a future devastated by warfare and anthropogenic climate change. The record is based on field recordings of Black religious services from the early-to-mid 20th century, but it is composed entirely of new arrangements and subtle rewrites of traditional Black folk songs. To make an informed prediction, I referenced a more diverse cross-section of the African Diaspora’s music than I ever have before. This album incorporates sounds from Belize, Georgia, Jamaica, Texas, Mississippi, New York and beyond.
It is not surprising to me that the most paralyzing time of my life, and the deepest dive into history I’ve yet taken, have resulted in an Afrofuturist album. I believe our most likely future bears a close resemblance to our past. The end result is an album comprised of songs and sounds heard in traditional African and African American ceremony, but updated with modern techniques. Drums, banjos, fiddles and song meet rock and roll, rap, looping, and contemporary arrangements. Ambient sounds and drone material collected on Cushing’s Island, Maine, establish the soundscape. I discerned the sound of the future by listening to the past and present.
The destruction of a way of life entails both loss and growth. The traditional songs I adapted for The New Faith originally developed among a people who had but recently been robbed of home, history, family, culture, and society. The unique history of African American people made our musical tradition an ideal candidate for my ambitious task. The New Faith is a statement of reverence for our devastating, yet empowering past; of anticipation and anxiety toward our uncertain future; and of hope that, come what may, something of us will yet survive.”
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