Now Playing: Brian Blake’s ‘Book of Life’ 

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Blake
Image courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media



Brian Blake is prepping for the release of his debut disc. It’s titled Book of Life and has a drop date of November 18th. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Brian Blake

Blake/Image courtesy of Brian Blake

Brian Blake is an American singer-songwriter, and musician. He is based in Memphis, Tennessee. According to his official website, his rockin’ resume includes winning the Songwriter of the Year by the Memphis Songwriter’s Association in 2021 for his tune “Move on J.D.”

Blake “first picked up the guitar at the age of 13 and by 17, he was … playing the blues …on Memphis’ storied Beale Street. Blake’s “top musical priority in recent years” has been songwriting. He has performed live “around Memphis since the mid-1990s.”  

He has played guitar and bass and provided vocals for several Memphis-area bands over the years. Blake and another songwriter, Tony Manard, put together “a Townes Van Zandt tribute show at Lafayette’s Music Room in Midtown Memphis each New Year’s Day” too. 

Signature Sound

Brian Blake’s signature sound is a blend of multiple music genres including Americana, blues, and folk. His musical influences stem “from both Texas and Tennessee.”  

Book of Life 

Book of Life is an 11-track album of all original songs. Here Blake leads the way on acoustic and electric guitar and vocals. He is backed by an assortment of other artists including Chris Beall (electric guitar); Rich Brotherton (on second acoustic guitar, cittern, dobro, mandolin, tenor guitar, and resonator guitar; John Chipman (drums and percussion); Bart de Win (accordion); Ron Flynt (bass, Wurlitzer piano, piano, and baritone guitar); Warren Hood (fiddle); Betty Soo (harmony vocals); and co-producer Walt Wilkinson (percussion and harmony vocals).

Blake briefly discussed the upcoming album. He told the press: “My intention with this album is to pay homage to my family and the place where my family has been for more than 175 years. It’s where I spent much of my youth, and it’s truly a special place to me.”

Track by Track

The album opens on the quiet but dramatic “Rice Fields in the Distance.” This is an effective introduction to Blake’s work and yet it only foreshadows what is yet to come. This song concerns his great-grandparents and their trials and tribulations trying to raise a big family during the infamous Great Depression.

The titular “Book of Life” is a song of good and bad times, struggle, and perseverance. It’s already garnering attention from both critics and fans alike. It deserves every positive word it has already received.  

When asked about the track Blake said: “I think this is a song most people can relate to, as we all eventually experience varying degrees of pain, loss, and grief. And hard as it may be to face those difficulties sometimes, they really are just pages and chapters within our individual stories. This song speaks to letting go of those emotions and pushing through the tough times.”

The next number is “Rose Marie.” When Blake’s character mentions the draft, careful listeners suspect what’s going to happen with this song’s pair of ill-fated lovers. And yet our hope springs eternal.

“The Ott Hotel” has been deemed a focus track. This ever so slightly swamp-tinged track tells the tuneful tale of a historic hotel that was left behind by progress and the ghosts that still haunt the place. If Hollywood ever makes a movie about this place, Blake has the theme covered right here. It comes complete with a clever instrumental close.     

The light, clever cut “Meant To Be” follows. This one reflects on the speaker’s multiple ex-wives and the thoughts and decisions behind the choices made. The song is a simplistic clever conclusion that songfully sets the singer free.

The sixth songful serving is “Move on J.D.” As noted above, this award-winning tune is a sad song-story about a World War II vet from the Liberty, Texas area who becomes homeless. Blake noted: “‘Move on J.D.’ is a song I’m very proud of, and I hope it causes people to reflect on how we can better support veterans with service-related disabilities – both seen and unseen.”

Not to be confused with the U2 1983 song “New Year’s Day”, this, like all the other tracks on the album, is an original composition. This one would be a welcome, original addition to any holiday playlist. Nevertheless, you can listen to it anytime because the song actually recalls a melancholic memory that comes complete with timely references.     

“Wilson” is welcomingly lighter both musically and lyrically. Blake paints a picture of the playful pair that makes this one perfect for an official accompanying music video.     

“In Too Deep” is yet another focus track on this platter. It is both apologetic and cathartic. It somehow seems intimate and yet nigh-universal in terms of personal relationships.

“Critic’s Choice” here goes to the touching track “Little Boys.” Blake and company continue to prove their worth here in another emotional piece. His signature sound remains solid as he continues to make personal connections with the listener.     

The closing cut, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, runs a close second. Here Blake seems to be putting the emphasis on the inevitability of change and how his family is becoming less and less connected to Liberty, Texas. This is Blake’s personal take on the axiom: you can’t go home again. It is an effective, apt album endnote.

Overall… 

Overall, this is a concept album that tunefully travels back through the musical mists of time to the early 20th century and lyrically leads listeners to the present. As the journey runs its course Blake explores a number of themes including change, divorce, love, loss, mortality, everyday struggles, and perseverance. It is an intimate “everyman” assortment of grassroots short stories effectively embellished with original music. 

Blake confirms his lyrical literary leanings. “I come from a long line of storytellers, and this album is my contribution to that tradition.” His music is honest, his songs sincere, and his characters immediately impact you for better or worse. So, check out Brian Blake’s Book of Life because this album was really “Meant to Be” listened to, friends.