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MP3 Shelly Blake - 1995 -2005 Volume One

lo-fi, honest, avant-garde folk

11 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Americana, ROCK: Emo

Artist Information

Shelly Blake -- Throat and Other Instruments

Q: Who are your greatest musical influences?

SB: Fred McDowell, Woody Guthrie, Lou Reed, Kim Gordon, Joseph Spence, Howard Finster. In no particular order. And Ian MacKaye and Daniel Higgs. And Bob Dylan. I like people who really sing it like they feel it; there is nothing worse than a fake singing voice. Oh, and also my Uncle John who played rock and roll piano and I guess my mom too. She didn''t play an instrument (well, actually she played glockenspiel) but I remember when I got my first electric guitar and was going to play a show and was nervous; she just said: ''Play it loud and don''t stop if you mess up''. I''ve taken that piece of advice very seriously in everything I do. I''ve always sort of liked ''folk'' -- in the broadest sense (including a lot of hardcore and punk rock as well as roots and blues, Skip James, Son House) -- in terms of songwriting. I like jazz and classical players and composers, too. Bill Evans is a hero; I really like that whole era of early 60''s jazz improvisation. I''m crazy about Albert Ayler, too; though his music is much different: he is sort of the simple, but expressionist, side and I feel for that. I love that Ornette Coleman and Yoko Ono worked together. I really love Steve Lacy. And in terms of classical music, I''ve always been a sucker for Chopin and really like some early 20th century composers too: Hindemith, some of Barber just because it makes me cry. And Shostakovich, especially the Leningrad work. Also Schoenberg. I like songs and I like getting punched in the teeth as well, what can I say. I wish Stravinsky would have written songs for the Jesus Lizard. I love music. Bach is maybe my favorite. Maybe Leonard Cohen. Maybe Duke Ellington. I don''t know. Tell you the truth, I''ve probably been just as influenced by writers: Beckett, Kafka, Pound, the more obtuse O''Hara... but epic poetry as well, particularly the Homeric poems. Might sound funny and eclectic, but I spent many a night in Boston riding the bus home and standing in the back scanning dactylic hexameter in Greek. I find that very relaxing.

There are so many influences in the world. I was introduced to the artwork of Joseph Beuys when I was young and have been greatly influenced in my life and work by his example; the world is full of art and creativity -- it is the responsibility of those who make their living creating art and music to convince everyone else that the world is not a shallow, deathly place. I know that sounds extraordinarily idealistic, but I did name one of my children after John Lennon, for heaven''s sake. I think that what we do by making and creating and improvising is really the task of opening up the wounds of human experience so that other people recognize that they are not alone. Even the saddest of songs can produce the greatest joy.

I love music. Some folks really just grab me and shake me: that''s how I was when I first heard Myra Melford. Also the first track on Roscoe Mitchell''s Nine to Get Ready album. That''s also how I feel listening to Asa from Lungfish and ages ago listening to Buck play drums in Third Harmonic Distortion. And also the first time I heard Rites of Spring. And Dan Madri and Matt Savage''s music.

But, I kinda feel awkward about talking about ''influences'', per se. I tend to think that we are influenced more by events and experiences in our own lives than by anything else, so when it comes to music or songwriters, my being ''influenced'' by Marvin Gaye or Shudder to Think is completely different than someone else being influenced by the same. Influence has to do with direct moods attached to experiences. When I listen to Funeral at the Movies, I''m not so much hearing the band playing the music as I am hearing the music play my own life, moments in my own life when or where the music has been there. In that way, Nick Cave''s Murder Ballads record will always symbolize the time I lived on Cathedral Street in Baltimore and really began writing in earnest and had some crazy times, and now when I hear songs from that album, it is as though I become again influenced by the frenzy of my own past. Simplest terms: music is a score. I guess I don''t think it really influences us as much as I think it really plays a vital and dialogous role in our lives and in our relation to our own past history.

I''ll tell you, I really don''t care about genres and ''types'' of music. I play all kinds of music. I''ve played folk and punk and mixed techno and performed free improv and sang country. I don''t care what people think. I''m hoping to live a long life and I don''t plan on quitting music any time soon. I don''t play to make folks like me or buy my records; I play for the same reason that I walk: it gets me from here to there. Now, whether I''m skipping or stumbling or striding just depends on where I''am at on that particular day. And I guess that''s how I feel about music. Music is the closest we can get to ignoring entropy. Music sheds the time from our skins. When I''m playing music, it''s just my religion; I don''t need you to tell me you like my religion or you don''t like my religion, ain''t gonna change my ritual on account of you.

Now that doesn''t mean I don''t care about you -- quite the contrary. I think if everyone lived like their life actually mattered -- as opposed to living in fear and waiting to take orders from authority -- the creativity latent in society would raise our perspective beyond the earthly and we would begin to see things as the prophet and the shaman do. And then we could create community.

Q: What have you been listening to recently?

SB: Tim Buckley... early stuff like Goodbye and Hello; I love the new Leonard Cohen album; Battles; Eric Dolphy solo stuff... and Steve Lacy. And a copy of Lawrence Lanahan''s 6 song cd which I got at the show a couple weeks ago -- the song ''Boards'' is my pick for Baltimore''s song-of-the-year. Also been going back through my collection and been digging Gary Burton''s Tong Funeral which is wild and Silkworm''s Libertine album which is like one of the best rock records ever. So a mixture of old and new, really. Joel''s been turning me on to Swedish hip-hop, too. Country-stuff too: Steve Earle''s ''Home to Houston'' sums up 2004 better than anything else. And I''ve been rather obsessive about an early Monroe Brothers album I picked up in Nashville. And as for live music, Audrey Chen and Le Quan Ninh put on one of the most emotive performances I''ve ever seen at 2004''s High Zero Festival. And I''m crazy about Like Moving Insects.


2004 Apache, What Apocrypha Have You?
Released in December, this recording documents the birth of the Grip, Gray, Blake collaboration. Recorded on the road in Boston, NYC, Providence, Portland and back home in Maryland, this cd contains fifty-six minutes of music recorded exclusively on a Radio Shack microcassette recorder. If you want to know what 2004 sounded like to us, it sounded like this.

2004 Shelly Blake 1995 - 2005 Volume I
Collection of recordings from the Jar, the Copycat, and elsewhere. This is where it all began. Break yr heart. Limited edition. And, for the second year in a row, Shelly has had an album listed in City Paper''s best local releases of the year.

2003 Nights of Revolution
Live, electric, and noisy improv rock and scream: drums, bass, two guitars, and a throat. Shelly and the Novel Great Americans bashing out songs from Drug Warriors, Novel Great Americans, and elsewhere. City Paper called it one of the best local releases of 2003. Out of print.

2002 Novel Great Americans
Beats, loops, static, guitars, distorted vocals, and compressed kicks. 14 months in the making. Released but in the most limited of editions. Out of print.

2001 Drug Warriors
An intensely personal sound narrative about a man who gets caught up in a really bad situation involving Borderland gangsters, murdered folk singers, and the deep hum of New Mexico. Improvisational arrangements, hisses and blurps, screams and scrawls."With Drug Warriors, Shelly Blake travels light years beyond bedroom auteur, establishing himself as a vibrational alchemist of the first order." - Demo Universe

2000 Folk Blues and Things to Use
14 songs recorded, mixed, and mastered in 16 hours. Thrown into existence by Will Schaff in Providence, RI. See: acoustic guitar, harmonica, voice, and space. Released by AmCity.

1998 Music for Automatic Pilots
Same album recorded twice in Washington, D.C. -- once relatively straight as acoustic guitar arrangements and the second time as a noise parade. Songs inspired by Cole Porter, Smokey Robinson, and The Boredoms. Unreleased.

1996 The Kindest Cuts / SecretBreathingLessons
One set of recordings and then another. And you may have neither. This was the year that Shelly Blake was voted one of the new artists to watch for by the IndiePop Reader''s Poll. Unreleased.

Magazines Sell Sex (Magic Eye Records)
This compilation features Shelly''s "25 cent games for five-and-dime prizes". It was a nice compilation featuring Modest Mouse and others.

Don''t Take Our Joy Away (Rockstar Records)
A visionary compilation of four-tracked Joy Division covers released by Will Schaff. Shelly''s contribution was a semi-karaoke version of "Atmosphere" recorded in a bathroom on a camcorder.

1995 Color Notation on the Sociopathway
Next round. Four-track recordings with no purpose other than delivering extreme melancholy; but, we''re all feeling better now. Out of print.

1995 The Lonely Ornamental Music of ShellyBlake
This is point A. The original five four-track recordings from the Copycat, a handful of recordings made on an answering machine tape, and a few nailed down to four-track in David Andler''s kitchen. Alternative Press: "A dose of genius". Out of print.

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