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Jake Blount crouches with his banjo in front of a distressed fireplace for the single, 'The Man Was Burning'
Phot credit: Michael Last

Jake Blount, The Man Was Burning – a review

Jake Blount's latest single, 'The Man Was Burning', crackles and burns as the singer reinvents an old spiritual to take on the modern rich.

The Man Was Burning artwork, by Jake Blount
Release Date
22 February 2022
The Man Was Burning, Jake Blount
A fiery rewrite of on an old traditional, replete with a Prince-like vocal choir, a Sister Rosetta Tharpe guitar solo, and enough one-man talent to have us looking out for more.

Jake Blount’s new single, ‘The Man Was Burning’, catches fire right from the off. Sparsely produced with handclaps, minimal percussion, a jagged electric guitar, bass, and a Prince-like take on a gospel choir (all Blount), we’re right into it from the very first smoothly-sung word, the arrangement fidgeting and juddering as the singer calmly delivers an angry “eat the rich” sermon.

‘The Man Was Burning’ is a spiritual, collected by Alan Lomax from 71-year-old Joe Lee at Virginia’s Powhatan State Farm in 1936. Jake Blount – a musician with a passion for old songs research that really resonates with the writers here at Tradfolk.co – found it on an old Smithsonian Folkways LP called Virginia Traditions: Virginia Work Songs. The song was originally a fire-and-brimstone traditional, condemning the evils of gambling. Blount worked at it during lockdown, transforming some of the lyrics to focus on, “somebody who’s hoarding money and thinking too much of what it can do for him”. Once again, we find that these old songs follow themes that never really go away – as relevant now as it was when Joe Lee sang it eight decades ago.

We’ll be honest: Jake Blount is a new name for us here at Tradfolk.co, but he’s ticked all of our boxes with this single. It’s a modern take on a gritty old song, performed with real zest, unexpected vocal harmonies, and a dirty guitar solo that hints at Keith Richards on ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ (but most likely bypasses The Stones altogether and heads straight back to Sister Rosetta Tharpe). If the rest of his back-catalogue is anything like this (and we’re off to find out), someone ought to look into getting him over to the UK for a tour. We’re pretty sure there’ll be an audience ready for him when he arrives.

For those that like to compare the old songs with their modern interpretations, here’s Joe Lee singing the 1936 version of ‘The Man Was Burning’. Get stuck in.